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How to Drive Distraction-Free

As necessary (and often, fun) as it can be, driving can also be dangerous—even for the most diligent motorist. Throw in major distracted driving factors like eating, using your smartphone, and road rage, and you're at an even greater risk for an accident.

Distracted Driving Defined

Basically, “distracted driving" is a catch-all phrase for anything that diverts a driver's attention from safely operating the motor vehicle. Such distractions can include anything from eating and drinking to talking to other passengers.

Types of Distracted Driving

There are three most common types of distractions:

  • Manual:
    • Anything that requires you to take your hands off the wheel, such as:
      • Eating or drinking.
      • Smoking.
      • Adjusting seat belts or certain vehicle controls.
      • Texting and driving.*
      • Talking on your phone.*
  • Visual:
    • Anything that requires you remove your eyes from the road, to include:
      • Changing the radio station.
      • Adjusting the navigation system.
      • Searching for items within the vehicle.
      • Looking at other passengers.
      • Texting and driving.*
      • Talking on your phone.*
  • Cognitive:
    • Anything that takes your focus away from driving—this could be:
      • Talking to passengers.
      • Singing along with your radio.
      • Driving with high emotion (sad, angry, etc.)
      • Texting and driving.*
      • Driving on your phone.*

Driving distractions such as these can:

  • Reduce or eliminate your reaction time to a problem on the road.
  • Cause you to lose control of the car.

Such chaos can result harsh consequences, such as severe injuries and even fatalities.

* NOTE: Notice anything about each list? That's right—your cell phone falls right into all three categories of driving distractions. In fact, texting and driving along with talking on the phone has become the deadliest factor in distracted driving accidents.

Avoiding Distracted Driving

With so much at stake, there's absolutely every reason to avoid being a distracted driver. Below are a few tips to help you keep your eyes on the road and your hands on the wheel.

Prepare for Your Trip

Do whatever it takes to prepare for your trip before you start driving. Such preparations could mean anything from making sure everyone's safety belts are buckled to knowing the directions to your destination (or having your GPS set ahead of time).

Also, eliminate multitasking, such as eating, drinking, or finding the perfect music. Do these things before you hit the road.

You should make even further preparations if you're driving an unfamiliar vehicle by taking the time to get acquainted with the car. You shouldn't be searching for the car's turn signals, windshield wiper control, or ways to adjust the rear and side view mirrors while you're already on the road. Figure these things out before you hit the gas.

Clean Your Vehicle

Having a clean and organized car helps prevent distractions more than you might realize. Dirty windows and items rolling about on the floorboards (especially on the driver's side) can lead to your eyes, hands, and mind being taken off the task at hand—driving. With everything in its place and nothing impairing your sight of the road, you'll be better equipped to drive safely.

Practice Driving Safety

Discipline yourself to follow the rules of the road, as well as keep up with changing traffic laws.

For example, smartphones and texting didn't always exist, and it took a while for states to implement laws regarding using your phone for any purpose while driving. States created these laws for a reason; they saw the dangers that cell phones presented to drivers.

Follow these and all other rules of the road to decrease your chances of distracted driving.

Take Breaks

Taking breaks is especially important during long trips—for you and your passengers. They give you a chance to stretch your legs; check or make any important phone calls, texts, or voicemails; grab a bite to eat; check for restroom facilities; and basically clear your mind and refocus on the drive ahead.

Don't Drive Drowsy or Emotional

If you're sleepy, don't drive. If you're emotional (especially extremely sad or angry), don't drive. Driving in these states of mind create huge cognitive distance between you and the road in front of you—leading to you possibly ignoring the speed limit, missing important traffic signs or lights, and overlooking other vehicles or pedestrians in your path.

Wait until you're rested or calm, or ask someone else to drive. It's as simple as that.

Pledge to End Distracted Driving

Convinced of the dangers of distracted driving yet? We—and every other driver on the road—certainly hope so!

Now's the time to show your commitment to safe driving. Take our Pledge to End Distracted Driving now, and challenge your friends to do the same. It's everyone's responsibility to look out for one another on the roads—so here's our chance to do it together.

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