With more and more states passing laws about texting or talking on the phone while driving, today's young drivers are becoming increasingly aware of these phone distractions while driving. Understanding the many other significant distractions is also a crucial part of being a safe driver.
1. Your Passengers
Passengers can become a big distraction. Everything, from your conversations to passing something from the front to the back seat, can take your attention away from the road. As an inexperienced driver, limiting your number of passengers to one or zero is important, and in many cases, the law.
If you do have to have friends in the car (and are legal to do so), how can you limit the distractions? First, make sure that you are not interacting with the people in your car too much. Keep your eyes on the road and your hands on the wheel. If something requires immediate attention, pull over before attending to it.
Ask your passengers to help you stay focused on the road.—remind them that their well-being is also at stake (remember, 2/3 of teen driving fatalities are passengers).
Feeling hungry while driving? Rather than stopping at the gas station and grabbing some chips to eat while you drive, stop, grab some chips, eat them and then drive. Driving while eating increases your odds of crashing by as much as 80 percent. Plus, 65 percent of near-miss crashes can be attributed to drivers who are eating and driving. Eating while driving is even riskier than texting while driving.
3. Adjustments in the Car
Adjust your GPS, seats, mirrors, radio, climate control and anything else before you start out on the road. If you find that these need to be adjusted again while you are driving, wait until you are at a stoplight — or better yet, pull into a parking lot and make the adjustments there.
4. Items in the Car
That empty soda can in your cup holder can easily fall out and roll around under your feet, distracting you and lodging itself under your pedal. All loose possessions need to be stored safely before you start driving.
5. Personal Grooming
Tying your tie, putting on your makeup or brushing your hair are tasks that need to be done at home. Make sure all of your dressing and personal grooming tasks are complete before you start the car.
6. Roadside Distractions
That big wreck you’re about to pass? If you rubberneck instead of thinking about driving, you could be joining them. If you take your attention toward something on the side of the road, even for a few seconds, you will be putting yourself and those around you at risk. Remember, at 65 MPH you’ve covered the length of a football field in three seconds.
Driving is a big responsibility — take it seriously. Give in to one of these distractions, and it could end in tragedy. So when you are turning off your cellphone before starting out on the road, remember the many other distractions and make a conscious commitment to avoid them.
Mario Cattabiani is the Director of Communications at Ross Feller Casey, LLP, a personal injury and automobile litigation law firm based in Philadelphia.