It's no secret that for many people, multi-tasking doesn't stop when they get behind the wheel. While taking a drive can still be an escape from the daily routine, people today seem more inclined to make auto travel an extension of home, work or play. That may be fine for a passenger, but as roads become busier and more congested, drivers should be finding ways to focus more attention on the road, not less.
Distraction can be disastrous. A joint study by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute (VTTI) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) found that almost 80 percent of crashes occurred when the driver took his or her eyes away from the forward roadway.
Recent media coverage has focused attention on personal or in-vehicle electronics as a primary culprit in driver distraction, particularly with respect to cell phones. However, many common activities or behaviors are frequently the source of distraction-related accidents:
Top 10 Driver Distractions (source: NHTSA-VTTI Study):
1. Using a wireless device, such as a cell phone
2. Talking to and interacting with passengers
3. Reaching for CDs, food, falling objects or other internal distractions
4. Programming radio stations or tinkering with dashboard controls
5. Using an electric razor, applying makeup or other personal hygiene-related actions
6. Unwrapping a burger, opening a canned drink or other movements when eating at the wheel
7. External distractions such as pointing out a funny billboard or pedestrian
8. Talking or singing to oneself
Multi-tasking may be the only way to cope at work or at home, but it's something to avoid behind the wheel. Remember, when driving, always Watch The Road.
Consumer electronics, used properly and in accordance with regulations and manufacturer guidelines, should make travel safer and assist drivers in keeping their eyes and attention on the road. For example, following voice prompts from your car navigation system is safer than trying to read a map or printed instruction. New back-up cameras and bumper sensors can make drivers more aware of pedestrians or obstacles that might not be visible. On long drives, listening to your latest digital music playlist or favorite satellite radio station will be more relaxing (and less distracting) than changing your radio station every few miles.
Just remember, if you want to use electronics when you drive, get them set up before you put the car in gear.
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