Driving a car – a several ton mass of metal, plastic, rubber, and electronics – is serious business. It takes training, paying attention, experience and alertness. Getting behind the wheel can have a lasting impact on more than just yourself. Driver education courses in schools are doing a much better job of teaching kids about the mental duties involved in operating a vehicle. Years ago teachers were coaches who enjoyed talking about engines, tires and maintenance. Oh, yeah, there were some laws you had to know to get that license, but the actual skills were to be fed to you by your parents. Today there are driving distractions that we never had 20 or 30 years ago.
We all need refreshers on what is involved in driving. Smokey Bear’s harping on “On you can prevent forest fires” has reduced timber loss. As yet there’s been no strong public service symbol created to remind drivers of what they must do.
The following are ten driving distractions that you need to be aware of – and avoid – to remember for the safety of your passengers, yourself, and others on the road. Whether you are a veteran driver or newly licensed, these tips apply to you.
1. The Over-Confidence Factor
Never take for granted that you have full control. Constant vigilance is the only way to keep from being surprised. Watch other cars and never, never, never assume they are going to do what you think they should do. Adjust side and rear-view mirrors before you leave! Then use them.
Understand the road conditions and be extra cautious in unfamiliar situations. Expect wet roads to be slippery. Be aware it is going to get dark during a storm or at the end of the day. Just because everybody’s racing at the speed limit on the expressway doesn’t mean there’s not a wreck up ahead and you’ll have to slam on your brakes. Be prepared. Be a defensive driver.
2. Peer Pressure
Whether you are driving or just along for the ride, make good choices. Speak up if someone else in the vehicle is doing something dangerous. Before you drive or ride, ask yourself: Do I trust this person?
Are you OR they in the right frame of mind? Have they had too much to drink? Have they taken any medications that might affect judgment or reactions?
Are you prepared to speak up? If not, then you may pay the consequence.
It’s not that you want to be a party-pooper or appear paranoid, but vehicles can be “killing machines” and you shouldn’t have to ride in one.
3. Fighting Mother Nature
Driving in the rain, fog, snow, bright sunlight, and dark calls for extra care., Check the forecast before starting out; avoid driving in bad storms if possible. If you are traveling during bad conditions, slow down and maintain a safe following distance – use the ten-second rule, not the three-second rule (It’s to gauge the distance between you and the car in front so you have time to stop. You see the car pass a landmark and count to 10. If you reach the landmark before 10, you are too close.) Also, be prepared.
Make sure you have de-icer, warm clothes, blankets, food, water, flashlight, first aid kit, and sunglasses. And have your cell phone charged!
4. Drowsy Driving
Over 100,000 vehicle accidents each year are caused by sleepy driving. Before traveling, get a good night’s sleep. Take a companion who can stay awake and help keep you alert if planning a long trip, Plan regular stops, and take a short nap if needed before getting back on the road. Also, avoid medications that cause drowsiness. For more tips and information on preventing drowsy driving, visit DrowsyDriving.org.
5. Rowdy Riders
Don’t overload your vehicle with passengers. For teen drivers, the risk of accident while driving with riders is significantly higher. Adding just one passenger to a vehicle increases a 16/17-year-old crash risk by 50 percent. With two or more passengers the risk increases five-fold. It’s more than the distraction of conversation or someone else being around. Research shows just awareness they are being watched by friends can cause teens to engage in risky driving behaviors.
6. Dare DEVIL Driving
Driving in a way that disregards safety and courtesy is in-your-face driving. Some of the conduct commonly making up aggressive driving include speeding, racing, switching back-and-forth in lanes, cutting off other drivers, failing to signal, running red lights, failing to yield, tailgating, and slamming on the brakes to discourage a tailgater. Assertive driving is irresponsible use of a vehicle and can have deadly results. There is no excuse for it on the road, so simply just don’t do it.
Give yourself time to get where you are going. Obeying the speed limit will prevent some accidents and can reduce the severity of crashes. Are the extra two minutes you save from speeding worth risking your life over? Check out the following chart to see how increasing your speed increases your risk of death while only saving you a few minutes in travel time.
|SPEED||TIME TO TRAVEL 10 MILES||TIME SAVED||RISK OF DEATH|
|50 mph||12 Minutes||-||x|
|55 mph||10 Minutes, 54 seconds||1 Minute, 6 seconds||1.5X|
|60 mph||10 Minutes||2 Minutes||2X|
|65 mph||9 Minutes, 14 seconds||2 Minutes, 46 seconds||3X|
|70 mph||8 Minutes, 34 seconds||3 Minutes, 26 seconds||4X|
|75 mph||8 Minutes||4 Minutes||6X|
|80 mph||7 Minutes, 30 seconds||4 Minutes, 30 seconds||8X|
|85 mph||7 Minutes, 3 seconds||4 Minutes, 57 seconds||12X|
Is the time saved worth your life?
Driving under the influence is a serious matter with consequences that reach far beyond the drunk driver. Check out these statistics:
Every two minutes, a person is injured in a drunk-driving crash.
On average, two in three people will be involved in a drunk-driving crash in their lifetime.
Drunk driving costs the United States $199 billion a year.
Prevention is pretty straightforward: if you drink, don’t drive. If you are faced with a situation where someone who is impaired is trying to drive, don’t get in the vehicle with them and do what you can to keep them from driving, take their keys or even call law enforcement. As a parent of teen drivers, establish rules: stay sober and don’t ride with others who are you believe are drunk.
9. Seat Belts
Seat belts reduce serious crash-related injuries and deaths by about 50 percent. Yet millions of adults consistently elect not to wear their seat belts. Protect yourself, your family, and all other passengers: insist everyone in the car use a seat belt, regardless of position in the vehicle, length of the trip, or whether they are sleeping during the ride. Never let a small child ride unless they have the appropriate seat-belt/car seat combination.
10. Texting and Cell Phones
Accidents resulting from texting are 100 percent preventable. Texting while driving slows your reaction time by 35 percent. A study shows it is becoming as dangerous as drinking and driving. Save calls, texts, and use of other gadgets for after the drive. It’s not where your hands are, it’s where your head is!
At least 28 percent of all traffic crashes – or at least 1.6 million crashes each year – involve drivers using cell phones and texting. Approximately 57 percent of American drivers admit to texting while driving.
Texting while driving increases the risk of a crash 23.2 times the risk of non-distracted driving – that is higher than driving while intoxicated.
Take driving seriously. Extra precautions in safety will make a difference for you, your passengers, and others on the road.