Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Avoiding Distractions While Driving

Driving while distracted is potentially as hazardous as driving while drunk, speeding or exhausted, and it occurs much more frequently.

A 2006 survey by the Insurance Bureau of Canada revealed that 89% of Canadians were very or somewhat concerned about driver distraction. And they have reason to be. Driver distraction has been identified as a factor in 8 out of 10 car crashes – about 4 million – in North America every year.

Yet 60% of the drivers surveyed said they would not stop using their cell phones while driving, even when informed that the habit put them at four times as great a risk of getting into a collision.

Here’s how to avoid distracted driving.

Before you get behind the wheel

Figure out how to reach your destination before you leave.
Be sure to consult a road map or an online mapping Web site such as Yahoo Maps to plot your route prior to setting off. If you get lost or are unsure you’re taking the correct route, pull off the road in order to check your map or GPS unit.

Be familiar with the car's controls before setting out.
The location of the controls varies from one car model to another. If you’re driving a newly bought car or a rental, it’s vital to learn in advance of your trip the location of the major controls, such as the gearshift, turn signals, windshield wipers and headlights. You don’t want your attention diverted by the unfamiliar placement of controls while you’re en route.

Drive when you’re rested. If you feel too tired to drive, pull off the road. Trying to reach your destination before falling asleep behind the wheel requires more effort to control your car.

Secure your passengers and pets.
Teach your children not to distract you while on the road. Make sure they’re buckled into their seats, and give them suitable books, games and toys. If they act up and you need to calm them, pull off the road to do so.

Don’t squeeze too many passengers into the car and don’t get involved in heavy conversation with them while you’re driving. If you have to tell them to be quiet, then don’t hesitate to do so. Secure your dog or cat in a carrier or harness while you're on the road. Never let your pet to sit on your lap while you’re driving.

Don’t be a multitasker

Don’t use your cell phone except when you’re stopped.
Using a hands-free phone doesn’t reduce distraction, because you’re still talking on the phone when you should be concentrating on the road. Even worse than making a call while driving is texting, which takes both your hands off the steering wheel.

Don’t eat and drink while driving.
If you are eating while driving, you are focused on the food instead of the road. You may not be distracted by chewing and swallowing but by unwrapping your food, reaching for the mustard, spilling your drink, and cleaning up—all unnecessary distractions while driving. Better to allow enough time to stop and eat.

Look good before you leave.
Make sure to shave, adjust your hair or apply your makeup before you leave. While driving, you should only be looking in mirrors to spot the traffic around you.

Don’t be distracted by the passing scene.
Keep your eyes on the road rather than turning your attention to a traffic accident, a car pulled over by the police or a billboard advertisement.

Manage the music.
Be it the car radio, a CD player or a digital music player, you don’t want getting the music right to be a source of distraction. So, plan on how to use these systems. Set your radio preset buttons and use them when you’re driving locally; if you’re on the highway, use the "Seek" function. You don’t want to be fiddling with the tuning knob.

If you use an iPod or other digital music player, create a playlist for your favorite songs so that you won’t be scrolling through menus while driving. However you listen to music, keep the volume low enough that you can hear potential dangers as well as see them.

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