Tips for distracted driving awareness month

WISH File Photo
WISH File Photo

INDIANAPOLIS (WLFI) – Numerous distractions exist that could endanger a driver, passengers or others sharing the road, such as bicyclists or pedestrians. In recognition of Distracted Driving Awareness Month, AAA said Indiana motorists should pay attention to the primary task of driving and offer tips to help stay aware while on the road.

Greg Seiter, public affairs manager for AAA Hoosier Motor Club, said distraction is significant contributing factor to deaths and injuries on roadways.

“While we’ve made substantial progress in the past few years by raising awareness about risky driving behaviors, the simple fact is that distraction continues to be a significant contributing factor to deaths and injuries on our roadways,” said Seiter in a press release. “We all should take personal responsibility for focusing on driving rather than on dangerous distractions.”

According to AAA, based on data provided by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, distractions were responsible for vehicle crashes leading to more than 3,000 deaths and 387,000 injuries in 2011.

The most common source of distraction for drivers is electronic devices, or cell phones. Text messaging behind the wheel is one of the riskiest things for a driver. AAA said texting involves manual, visual, and mental distraction simultaneously, so any kind of cell phone use — even hands-free devices — can be risky.

“The research showed that hands-free features, increasingly common in new vehicles, are actually among the most mentally distracting,” Seiter said. “Just because a drivers’ eyes are on the road and hands are on the wheel does not mean that they are safely focusing on driving.”

Seiter said last year’s research was groundbreaking, finding that mental distraction by itself dangerously affects drivers behind the wheel.

AAA offers the top 10 tips to avoid distractions while driving:

10. Fully focus on driving and do not let anything divert your attention. Actively scan the road, use your mirrors and watch out for pedestrians and cyclists.

9. 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.

8. Make adjustments before your drive. 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.

7. Finish dressing and personal grooming at home – before you get on the road.

6. 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.

5. Secure children and pets before getting underway. If they need your attention, pull off the road safely to care for them. Reaching into the back seat can cause you to lose control of the vehicle.

4. Don’t use cell phones while driving — handheld or hands-free — except in absolute emergencies. Never use text messaging, email functions, video games or the Internet with a wireless device, including those built into the vehicle, while driving.

3. If you have passengers, enlist their help so you can focus safely on driving.

2. If another activity demands your attention, instead of trying to attempt it while driving, pull off the road and stop your vehicle in a safe place. To avoid temptation, power down or stow devices before heading out.

1. 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.

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