You hear the brakes screech, and the sound of a collision echoes through the air. A few seconds was all it took to inadvertently swerve into another car or miss a bend in the road. It was as fast as glancing at your cellphone; as natural as reaching for your soda; as simple as fiddling with the radio; as innocent as petting the furry, four-legged passenger traveling beside you. Due to driving distractions, those five seconds meant your life.
We have all been guilty of being distracted while driving. It is both disturbingly common and severely dangerous. According to the Centers for Disease Control, distracted driving causes approximately nine deaths and more than 1,000 injuries every day.
To decrease your risk of veering off the road, learn more about the driving distractions you may be falling victim to without knowing it.
Dangers of Cell Phone Use on the Road
You would not read a book while driving. Scrolling through email at a stop sign, watching a Tik Tok video at the red light, or checking a text message at an intersection is no different.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), drivers take their eyes off the road for an average of 4.6 seconds when sending or reading a text message. At 55 mph, that is equivalent to driving the length of a football field with your eyes shut.
To avoid driving distractions, place your phone in a spot that is not easily visible or accessible. If necessary, use a hands-free device, put it on silent, or turn it off.
Difficulties of Eating and Drinking in a Car
Face it—eating and drinking while driving puts drivers, passengers, and pedestrians at risk of injuries and fatal car crashes. The NHTSA states 80 percent of all car accidents and 65 percent of near misses happen by distracted drivers who are more focused on their burgers than the road.
If you feel a snack attack coming on, pull over or wait until you are home to enjoy the meal. Also, be aware of the dangers of drinking steaming coffee in your vehicle. Imagine hitting a pothole, and your piping-hot beverage splashes through the vents of your favorite travel mug. That beloved ‘Cup of Joe’ is now seeping into your clothes and causing third-degree burns on your lap.
By shying away from at-risk foods and beverages, such as tacos, doughnuts, soups, soft drinks, and coffee, you can significantly reduce your chances of a serious or fatal car crash.
Pitfalls of Adjusting the Radio
We all enjoy belting out our favorite tunes while cruising with the windows down. Cranking the volume to full blast not only draws more of your focus to the song, but it prevents you from hearing the honk of a car horn or the blare of an emergency vehicle. Taking your eyes off the road for less than a second can significantly impact how quickly you hit the brakes in an emergency.
Before hitting the road, settle on your music playlist or a radio station. If you need to adjust it, take advantage of routine stops, such as a red light, or ask your passenger to operate with the controls. The same is true for the temperature controls and GPS.
Hazards of a Minivan Party
When you have passengers in the car, it is natural to talk to each other. However, the risk of a crash increases when you focus more on your friends than your surroundings. That said, do not sequester yourself or avoid having people in the vehicle for fear of getting into an accident. As the car czar, keep your passenger count to a minimum, enforce seat belt laws and ensure your passengers are under control and not too loud.
Perils of Pets in the Car
We all love bringing our furry friends with us on road trips, but it can also cause driving distractions. Unlike humans, pets enjoy moving around the car, looking out every window, or sitting on your lap. Letting Spot hang his head out the window and let his jowls flap in the wind can divert your attention from the road. When in the car, always secure your pet in a seat or crate.
Decrease Your Risk of Driving Distractions
Any distraction, regardless of how small, quick, or harmless it may seem, can drastically increase your odds of getting into an accident and should be avoided when behind the wheel. Therefore, it is imperative to understand that ordinary tasks are sometimes the most dangerous culprits behind some nasty accidents. When you recognize these distractors and alter your behavior, you can create a safer defensive driving environment for everyone involved. That five-second distraction is not worth endangering yourself or others.
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