Distracted drivers are dangerous

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Statistics show that one of every six traffic fatalities is related to distracted driving. Another half million injuries result from distraction-related crashes.

A common source of distraction is trying to multitask while driving. Also, the repetition of commuting also can be distracting.

We offer these tips that make it simple to become a more attentive and safer driver on your way to and from work:

1) Eating and driving don't mix. When you're on the go, your commute might seem like a convenient time to enjoy a bite of breakfast or an afternoon snack, but that convenience should be secondary to your safety. Keeping both hands free to drive makes it easier to respond to unexpected situations.

2) Take care in school zones. As you drop off children at daycare on your way to work or pick up your precious cargo after school activities, keep a watchful eye on both pedestrians and bicyclists. Beyond following posted speed limits and stopping for school buses that are loading or unloading, be vigilant watching for children who might dart out between cars in congested traffic.

3) Put the phone away. It can be tempting to multitask by using your cell phone to finish the workday or follow up on family matters. But research shows that driving while using a cell phone reduces the amount of brain activity associated with driving by 37 percent. If you need to make a call or send a text, stop in a safe location and complete your conversation before resuming your commute.

4) Drive like your car is brand new. Even though your route to work is familiar, consider adopting the same level of awareness you had when first driving a new car. Continuously checking your mirrors, watching your blind spots and scanning the roadway ahead are ways to keep your eyes moving and your mind alert.

5) Make adjustments while you're in "park." It's easy to overlook this basic rule from driver's education class, but adjusting tunes and temperature controls before you switch into drive mode is just as important today.

6) Don't drive while under the influence. Enough said.

7) Take extra care in adverse weather. Even if your commute is just a short distance, taking time to make sure your car is clear of condensation, fog, ice or snow is a must. Then, turn on your headlights to increase visibility. You'll also want to keep a safe distance behind other cars, looking out for drivers who might not have taken the same precautions as you.