There is no shortage of distractions in the modern world. Distracted driving has become a national issue, and many schools and public agencies are scrambling to raise awareness of the problem. The National Safety Council estimates that one in four car accidents involve cell phone use, but many people still believe that talking or texting while driving is harmless. Using electronics while driving is only one of the dangerous habits that have become all too common for today's drivers.
Are you putting yourself and your family at risk?
Here are some driving practices that increase the likelihood of an accident, and ways to prevent them:
Using the phone: Texting and talking while driving are extremely dangerous. Think you've solved the problem by using a hands-free device? Think again. The National Safety Council has shown that even talking into a headset while driving can have dire consequences. Because both driving and talking are "thinking tasks," it's impossible to give your full attention to driving if you're talking at the same time, and the effect is magnified if you are talking to a device, rather than a passenger. Bottom line: if the conversation is important, it can wait.
Driving with Fido: Driving without a seat belt is just as dangerous for our furry friends as it is for humans. Tending to pets while driving can cause accidents, and leaving pets unsecured increases the chance they will be hurt if an accident occurs. It's tempting to let your pooch ride beside you or spread out on the back seat, but for your sake and theirs, make sure your animal is in a secure carrier or blocked-off section of the car while in transit.
Wearing a seat belt: Wearing a seat belt is the number one way to protect yourself against injury and death in the event of an accident. But many adults still do not wear seat belts on a consistent basis. Model seat belt use for your children, and make it a habit to buckle up every single time.
Chowing down: When you're consuming a meal or a drink behind the wheel, you're risking a lot more than a stain on your favorite sweater. Spilling food or hot coffee can throw you completely off balance and cause you to swerve off the road. Make it a point to eat meals in appropriate places, like at the table.
Managing your music: Not having the right tunes may seem like a serious problem, but taking the time to play with the radio or iPod while driving may have real consequences. Get the music going before you start your trip, and if you absolutely must change CDs or find a new station while in transit, pull over.
Driving drowsy: It's been widely demonstrated that driving while drowsy can be just as bad, or worse, than driving drunk. Resist the urge to go just a little bit further if you're feeling sleepy on a long car trip. Take the time to stop and sleep, even by just pulling off the road if you have to.
Rubbernecking: If you're human, it's extremely tempting to try and get a good, long look at an accident on the side of the road, or at the poor guy who just got pulled over. But giving in may mean setting yourself up for an accident or a ticket of your own. Mind your own business, for safety's sake.