How to minimize distracted driving

Consumer Reports News: September 06, 2011 02:43 PM

With distracted driving now playing a part in 80 percent of all car crashes, according to a recent Virginia Tech study, and responsible for some 5,500 automotive fatalities annually, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the problem of mobile phone use for texting and talking behind the wheel has become an epidemic. And it’s a problem that can be avoided.

Driving can be safer, less stressful, and more enjoyable if you stay off the phone. And one easy way to do that is to take the time to do a little preparation before setting out.

  • Choose your music, set the interior temperature, and make any other control adjustments you need to before hitting the road, or wait until you are stationary to make any changes.
  • Check phone messages if you need to, and make any necessary calls. Even if you can make hands-free calls, the safest approach is to avoid making calls while driving. Never use the phone in heavy traffic, bad weather, or in other dangerous road conditions. The best is to pull over somewhere safe and make the call.
  • Program your navigation device ahead of time, if you use one. And review your route to familiarize yourself with it whether you use GPS or not. If you are not sure, pull over and memorize the next few directions.
  • Allow enough time to make your trip without rushing.
  • Don’t travel with unrestrained pets in the car. An excited animal can be a dangerous distraction, and it can interfere with your ability to control the car.
  • Loose items can also be a hazard. Many accidents are caused by drivers reaching to pick up something from the floor.
  • Try not to eat behind the wheel. Cleaning up a spill, or trying to avoid one, can easily take your eyes off the road long enough to cause a crash.
  • And it may seem obvious, but take care of your personal grooming needs before starting out.

If all drivers can focus on driving, rather than these other tasks, when behind the wheel, the roads would be safer for all.

Check out our October issue report Connected Cars: A new risk to find out more on new in-car services and complex controls.

For more on distracted driving, see our special section.

Jim Travers

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