8 Biggest Distractions Behind the Wheel

by AutoInsuranceQuotes.org Staff Writer on August 9, 2012

Seeing that Americans spend more than 100 hours commuting to work each year, it’s no surprise that we also eat, drink, talk on the phone, and listen to music as we drive. But just because we’ve become accustomed to doing multiple tasks while driving doesn’t mean that it’s safe. In fact, according to Distraction.gov, a government website for distracted driving, 3,092 people were killed in automobile accidents involving a distracted driver in 2010. An estimated 416,000 were injured in crashes involving distracted drivers. These accidents are completely preventable, and until we make changes in our own driving behaviors, these numbers are likely to rise. Here are the eight biggest distractions behind the wheel:

  1. Music:

    Adjusting the radio, searching an iPod, and changing CDs are just a few examples of how distracting music is to drivers. The louder the music, the more distracting and dangerous it can be. Loud music has a tendency to drown out horns and emergency sirens, which could lead to a serious accident. But music isn’t all bad. It can keep you alert and entertained on road trips and help reduce road rage symptoms. The key to keeping music from becoming a dangerous distraction is to choose the music you want to hear before you start driving, keep it at a lower volume, and have a passenger change the radio stations or switch CDs so you can keep your eyes on the road.

  2. Talking on the cell phone:

    The cell phone might be one of the greatest inventions of all time, but it’s also one of the biggest distractions to drivers today. Smartphones have only made this worse with the addition of apps and games that require a lot of your attention. According to Distraction.gov, talking on a cell phone while driving reduces brain activity associated with driving by 37%. A less active brain could lead to more accidents. If you must talk on the phone while driving, use a hands-free headset, but it’s far safer to save the call until you stop driving.

  3. Texting:

    Texting has become one of the most dangerous driving distractions of all time. The act of typing, sending, and reading text messages takes your eyes off the road for approximately 4.6 seconds, according to Distraction.gov, which is the equivalent of driving 55 mph on an entire football field blind. Distraction.gov also determined that text messaging increases the crash risk 23 times worse than driving while not distracted. Texting while driving has caused thousands of accidents and deaths, all of which could have been avoided by not touching the cell phone. Save your text until you’ve safely reached your destination.

  4. Eating and drinking:

    How many times have you eaten a sandwich or drank a piping hot coffee while trying to drive? We’ve all done it from time to time, but that doesn’t mean it’s safe. Add spills, crumbs, and dropped food to the mix, and you’ve got yourself a recipe for disaster. If you’ve got to eat or drink while in the car, wait until you’ve come to a complete stop to ensure that you don’t get too distracted and make a dangerous driving mistake.

  5. Passengers:

    Bickering, loud talking, and song requests are all examples of distracting passenger behaviors. Passengers have a strong influence on a driver’s concentration and performance. As much as you might want to entertain your passengers or break up an argument in the back seat while driving, you need to keep your eyes on the road. If your passengers are distracting you, pull off to the shoulder and set things straight. Don’t start driving again until you and your passengers have settled whatever it is that was distracting you in the first place. Remember: Your car, your rules.

  6. Applying makeup:

    Putting on lipstick or mascara while driving might not seem like a big deal until you ram into the car in front of you. Applying makeup or grooming yourself is very distracting because it typically involves looking in the mirror and using one of your hands. If you must put on lip gloss or brush your hair, wait until you’ve come to a complete stop, but don’t make a habit out of this one.

  7. Reading:

    Whether you’re reading a map or a text message, reading is one of the riskiest things you can do while operating a vehicle. Reading takes your eyes off of the road, which could cause you to veer into the wrong lane, hit the car in front of you, or drive off the road. If you need to read a map, pull off to the shoulder or go to a rest stop. If you need to read a text message, wait until you’ve come to a complete stop.

  8. Using a navigation system:

    Navigation systems are a huge convenience for travelers and directionally challenged drivers, but these tools can also be a big distraction behind the wheel. If you find yourself lost mid-trip, you might try to redirect your GPS while driving and get into an accident in the process. If you have to reroute your navigation system, pull over to plug in the information and make sure the address is correct before you start driving.

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