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Distracted Driving

Driving is a very demanding task; yet almost all drivers try to multitask behind the wheel. According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, distracted driving accounts for 23% of all crashes. All drivers need to understand the risks of distracted driving and make the right decisions.

All distractions endanger driver, passenger and bystander safety. According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, 3,142 people were killed in motor vehicle crashes involving distracted drivers in 2020. Anything that takes your attention away from driving can be a distraction, such as:

  • Using a cellphone or smartphone, including hands-free
  • Eating and drinking
  • Talking to passengers
  • Grooming
  • Reading, including maps
  • Using a navigation system
  • Watching a video
  • Pets
  • Texting

Text messaging requires visual, manual and cognitive attention from the driver and is by far the most serious distraction. Text message bans are currently in effect in 48 states.

Tips to Avoid Distracted Driving

The following can help you become a safer, less distracted driver:

  • Never use a cell phone while driving.
  • Let incoming calls go to voicemail and return the call when safely stopped. If you must take a call, pull over as soon as possible and park until you finish the conversation. Keep in mind that headset cellphone use is not substantially safer than hand-held use.
  • Adjust vehicle controls such as radio, air conditioning and mirrors before the vehicle is in motion.
  • If the vehicle is new to you, familiarize yourself with the controls (e.g., location of lights and wipers) before you leave.
  • Don't reach down or behind the driver's seat, pick up items off the floor or open the glove compartment while driving.
  • Take care of personal grooming such as shaving, brushing your hair and applying makeup before you get in the vehicle.
  • Review maps before departing. If you need to refer to a map, pull over to a safe location.
  • If there are passengers in the vehicle, make sure they are aware that driving the vehicle is your primary task, not holding a conversation.
  • If you find yourself daydreaming or feeling fatigued, pull over and take a break.
  • Avoid eating while driving. If you must eat in the vehicle, select small finger foods.

Tips to Avoid Aggressive Driving

Research also indicates that aggressive driving on your part or by other drivers can be distracting because it takes your mind away from driving. The following tips can help you avoid being an aggressive driver:

  • Don't change lanes without signaling and don't cut off other drivers.
  • Don't drive in the passing lane unless you are passing. If another vehicle is approaching, signal and move to the right.
  • Don't tailgate. Always observe the three-second following rule.
  • Don't use your horn or high beams to retaliate against other drivers.
  • If you encounter an aggressive driver, get out of the way as quickly and as safely as possible. Even if the driver's actions offend you, trying to engage them may escalate the situation.

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