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Lifestyle & Travel

Distracted Driving: Here's What to know

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When many of us first got our driver’s license, the biggest technological distraction was leaning over to change the radio station.

A lot has changed since then. Today, many of our cars are communication centers on wheels. We can make phone calls, send texts, check directions, and be alerted to anything from upcoming traffic jams to incoming emails.

We could be paying a steep price for this convenience. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, distracted driving has claimed  on average the lives of 9 people every day on America’s roads. In 2015, there were 3,477 people killed and another 391,000 injured from crashes involving a distracted driver.

Though campaigns against distracted driving are often focused on teens, drivers of all ages are guilty of losing focus behind the wheel: A survey conducted by the Training, Research and Education for Driving Safety program at University of California San Diego School of Medicine found that 60 percent of adults age 65 and older use their smartphones while driving.

It’s important to note that you don’t need to be holding your phone to have your driving ability compromised. Research conducted by the University of Utah found that the use of hands-free technologies were distracting for drivers, even with their eyes on the road and hands on the wheel.

The research also found that the older participants in the study were more likely to be distracted by voice commands than the younger participants, and distraction wasn’t eliminated for drivers already familiar with the voice recognition commands on their phone or the “infotainment” systems built into their car.

Anything taking your attention away from driving is a distraction.

There are three main types of distraction:

  1. Cognitive = Mind is somewhere else
  2. Visual = Eyes are off the road
  3. Manual = Hands are not on the wheel

Activities that combine all three types of distraction, such as texting, are especially dangerous.

So what can you do to cut down on distractions while you’re on the road? These tips to help prevent distracted driving from AAA, include helpful suggestions like eating before getting in the car, finishing personal grooming at home, and—perhaps most importantly—not using electronic devices while driving. We suggest taking this a step further and turning your electronics off or putting them on silent mode to avoid a reaction to any incoming notifications.

Don’t forget that passengers can be distractions, too. If you drive with a full car of people, ask for their help in maintaining your safety on the road. This can be as simple as keeping the music down or refraining from distracting conversation while you drive. Also, don’t forget to be mindful of these things when you’re a passenger in someone else’s car.

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