Drivers distracted enough to take their eyes off the road are twice as likely to get into an accident, according to a study by researchers at Virginia Tech Transportation Institute. Unfortunately, the study also found that drivers tend to engage in distracting activities more than 50 percent of the time.
We hear a lot about the dangers of using a cell phone while driving, but that’s not the only activity that puts drivers at risk. Here are rules of thumb to remember when you’re behind the wheel.
Avoid These Common Distractions While Driving
1. Avoid using electronics, even if it’s hands-free
You are probably aware that using your smartphone while driving is dangerous and may even be banned in your state. But, hands-free technology is no less distracting than using your smartphone manually. In fact, a study found that after giving a voice command, we remain distracted for 27 seconds, which is more than enough time to get into a crash.
2. Stay chill
Driving while angry, sad or distressed can lead to an accident. Sciencealert.com points out that driving while agitated the chances of getting into a car accident are ten times as great.
3. Turn down the volume
You may not be surprised to know that teens who drive while listening to music at high volume are more prone to driving errors. Needless to say, we would all be less distracted if we kept the volume down while driving.
4. Don’t eat or drink while driving
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) found that people who eat and drive increase their risk of an accident by a whopping 80 percent. The organization’s research led to a list of the top items that are the most dangerous to enjoy while driving. The number-one culprit? Coffee! Turns out, coffee leads to accidents more than any other item.
5. When nature calls, make that pit stop
When you really need to go, don’t ignore it. Pull over to a rest stop as soon as possible. As one hospital study discovered, driving while really, really needing to go to the bathroom messes with judgment and focus as much as having a 0.05 blood-alcohol count.
6. Beware of dog
Driving with a dog in the car is distracting. They’re just too irresistible. You may let Fido sit on your lap. You know you want to pet him. And if you give him treats while driving you aren’t alone. Get a restraint and buckle your dog up safely, preferably in the back seat.
7. Don’t let the kids distract you
Easier said than done, right? AAA studies show that kids are more of a distraction than adult passengers. Do your best to keep the distraction level down. Set up some rules and expectations. Keep any snacks within the kids’ reach, and make it clear that if anything falls onto the floor they are not to try and retrieve it. Avoid checking the rearview mirror constantly. Just keep in mind that even five seconds with your eyes off the road can have tragic consequences. Do everything you can to keep your precious cargo safe.