A deadly epidemic continues to impact roadways across the United States. In 2012 alone, distracted driving related accidents accounted for an estimated 3,328 deaths and 421,000 injuries (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration).
While texting and cell phone use behind the wheel is the most alarming distraction, anything that takes a driver’s eyes and attention off the road increases the risks of an accident. Even a single distraction like daydreaming, grooming, or changing the radio station can cause a lifetime of devastating consequences.
Since 2009, The U.S. Department of Transportation has been leading the way to stop distracted driving by launching several national campaigns to raise public awareness on the issue and encouraged states to adopt tough laws. To prevent distracted driving, they urge motorists to:
- As a general rule, if you cannot devote your full attention to driving because of some other activity, it’s a distraction. Take care of it before or after your trip, not while behind the wheel.
- If you have passengers, enlist their help so you can focus safely on driving.
- Put aside your electronic distractions. Don’t use cell phones while driving – handheld or hands-free – except in absolute emergencies.
- Secure children and pets before getting underway. If they need your attention, pull off the road safely to care for them. Reaching into the backseat can cause you to lose control of the vehicle.
- Snack smart. If possible, eat meals or snacks before or after your trip, not while driving. On the road, avoid messy foods that can be difficult to manage.
- Finish dressing and personal grooming at home – before you get on the road.
- Make adjustments before your get underway. Address vehicle systems like your GPS, seats, mirrors, climate controls and sound systems before hitting the road. Decide on your route and check traffic conditions ahead of time.
- Store loose gear, possessions and other distractions that could roll around in the car, so you do not feel tempted to reach for them on the floor or the seat.
- Fully focus on driving. Do not let anything divert your attention, actively scan the road, use your mirrors and watch out for pedestrians and cyclists.
The best way to end distracted driving is to educate all Americans about the danger it poses. For a great resource, visit http://www.distraction.gov to find more powerfully persuasive facts and statistics.