The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety recently completed research that indicates mental distraction alone dangerously affects drivers behind the wheel. The research also shows that hands-free features, increasingly common in new vehicles, are among the most distracting. Just because a drivers’ eyes are on the road and hands are on the wheel doesn’t mean that they’re safely focused on driving.
Distractions were responsible for vehicle crashes leading to 3,179 deaths and 431,000 injuries in 2014, according to the most recent data provided by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
Tips to Avoid Distracted Driving
Don’t touch that dial.Adjust seat positions, climate controls, sound systems, and other devices before you leave or while the vehicle is stopped. Know how your controls work, so if you must adjust something on the fly, you’ll be less distracted. Use presets for radio and climate control, or have your passenger assist you.
Stop to eat or drink.Drive-through windows and giant cup holders make it tempting to have a meal while driving, but you’re safer when you stop to eat or drink. Reducing your risk will be worth the time you spend.
Pull over to a safe place to talk on the phone or send text messages and emails.Mobile phones can be a great resource for getting help or reporting trouble. But, whether you use a handheld phone or a hands-free device, talking while driving causes you to take your mind off the task at hand (and sometimes your eyes and hands, too). Your best bet is to pull off the road to a safe spot before you use your phone to talk or text. Find a safe area away from traffic. Learn how your phone’s controls work in case an emergency call while driving is unavoidable. Practice good habits: Turn your phone off before you drive, so you won’t be tempted to answer calls on the road.
Plan ahead.Check directions and traffic conditions before you leave, so you’ll be prepared for your journey. If you have a GPS, enter your destination information before departing, and pull over to a safe place if you need to make changes or review maps or route guidance. If possible, use a passenger as your navigator and assistant. Don’t multitask and drive. Driving is complicated enough — you’ll become distracted if you do other things, too. Don’t use the vehicle’s mirrors for personal grooming when the vehicle is in motion. Don’t try to read or write while you’re behind the wheel. Just drive. Pull over to care for children. Change the baby, feed the kids, and buckle them into their vehicle seats before you leave. If you need to attend to them, pull over in a safe place — don’t try to handle children while you’re driving.
Help teens identify and reduce distractions.New drivers face a big challenge behind the wheel; in fact, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety reports that for every mile they drive, teens are four times more likely to be involved in a crash than other drivers. Additionally, crash risk increases with the number of passengers. Parents must model safe driving behaviors and teach teens to limit distractions and focus on the road.
Free Disconnect and Drive bumper magnets are available at AAA Car Care centers and AAA Travel offices, or make a request by contacting Traffic Safety here.