8 Things You Can Do to Avoid Being a Distracted Driver

by | Apr 24, 2013 | Car Safety

Practicing preventive maintenance and keeping all your automotive systems in tip-top shape is only part of the picture when avoiding accidents.

Did you know that 1 out of 5 car crashes are caused by distracted driving?

Distractions are anything that can cause a driver to shift attention away from where his primary focus should be– on driving the vehicle.  Most states have laws that impose stiff penalties for distracted driving.  In fact, in April of this year, the Maryland General Assembly passes a measure strengthening distracted driving laws. Now police officers can pull over a driver who is talking on a handheld device while driving.  Previously, a driver could only be ticketed if he had been pulled over for another violation.  Now fines range from $75 for a first offense to $175 for the third offense.  But of course potential fines are just part of the story.  What you really want to focus on is increasing road safety.

Many distractions are pretty obvious, but here are eight things you can do to lessen the chances of being distracted while driving.

  1. Turn your cell phone off or put it in the trunk.  Avoid being tempted to answer the phone, send a text or use your cell phone’s GPS.  A study out of Monash University shows that drivers who use hand held devices are four times more likely to get into car crashes that result in injuries.  Also, even though the distracted driving law doesn’t pertain to use of a cellphone while sitting at a red light, that can be hazardous too.  Drivers behind you may be expecting you to move, and they may be distracted and take off before you do, resulting in a fender bender.  A full 50% of drivers report answering their cell phone while driving.  Let’s change that statistic.  If your phone is off or in the trunk, you can’t answer it.
  2. Don’t eat or drink in your car.  Just think about how much attention it takes to get that cup into the cup holder, hold a burger and take a bite, or avoid spilling something onto your lap while driving.  Eating while driving is a big cause of driver distraction. Avoiding this distraction while driving might result in a cleaner car or fewer calories, but it can certainly help you to be a more attentive driver.
  3. Avoid grooming while driving.  How many of you have seen drivers putting on make-up, using tweezers to remove a stray hair, combing hair or doing some type of personal grooming while driving? It’s impossible to be attentive to grooming and driving at the same time.
  4. Adjust your radio, CD, or MP3 player before you get on the road. – Taking your eyes off the road to search for the right button on your stereo or your favorite song can result in distraction.  You can increase your safety just by taking care of this before you get on the road.
  5. Avoid talking to passengers.  Believe it or not, just having a conversation with other passengers in the car can be a distraction.  I’ve even seen some drivers who completely turn their head to look at the person they are talking to.  Yes, I know, almost everybody does it, but now that you’re aware that it’s a potential distraction, perhaps you’ll think twice about initiating a conversation next time you’re driving.
  6. Avoid reading booklets or maps.  Checking the newspaper, that report you need to read before you get into the office, a printout from mapquest.com or even an old fashioned road map are all driver distractions.  Just avoid them.  In fact, you should try to follow point #7 and…
  7. Memorize the directions to your destination.  Believe it or not, using a GPS system is a driver distraction, even if it’s mounted into your dashboard.  Paying attention to the GPS visual display takes your eyes off the road.  If possible, have a passenger do the navigating.
  8. Don’t try to watch a video while driving.  Yes, some people try to watch videos while they are driving.  If you haven’t tried this – great, but be aware of drivers who do.

For more information and statistics on distracted driving, distraction.gov is a great website. One of the keys to reducing distracted driving is education about just how unsafe distracted driving can be.  The next time you consider texting while driving, remember, you’ll be 23 times more likely to be in an accident


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About the Author

About Brian England

Brian England, the current president of BA Auto Care (formerly British American Auto Care), got his start with an auto apprenticeship in a small town in northwest of London. He came to the U.S. in 1972 to work for a Land Rover dealer in Rockville, MD. A few years later, he started British American Auto Care with his wife, Jennifer. Brian is a big believe in preventative maintenance, and his philosophy is to encourage and educate drivers on the benefits of a regular maintenance plan.