Avoiding Distractions While You’re On The Road

Defensive driving courses will are all about eliminating distractions and being a better driver by preventing any problems from ever happening and anticipating potential outcomes on the road. Easier said than done, though. Sometimes little things pop up and detract our attention from the roads for even the smallest amounts of time, but these tiny diversions can have serious consequences. While you might have little control over other drivers and outside forces, a defensive driving course can show you that there are distractions that we impose upon ourselves which we are capable of minimizing. Whether you’re a new driver or you’ve been on the road for years, it’s always helpful to take care of these small problems before they become bigger ones.

Set Up Your GPS

One advancement technology has given us is having the presence of GPS in our vehicles. Most of us use the device to find the easiest route so often that it’s almost become second nature. If we set it up appropriately, it makes for an efficient drive.

But one glance away from the road can spell the difference between safely arriving at our destination and getting into an accident on the way there. To avoid taking your focus away from the road, make sure that you encode the necessary information before you start driving.

Mount your GPS screen in such a way that it’s at eye level. This way, if you need to look at the screen, you won’t have to glance down. That said, turn the volume up anyway – it’s better to listen to the directions rather than taking your eyes off the road.

Put The Phone Away

Cell phones have given us the ability to stay connected and reach people in the world that we wouldn’t otherwise be able to reach. But they’re also incredibly dangerous on the road. What you might consider as a glance at your phone is likely much longer; in fact, most people take their eyes off the road and onto their phone for about five seconds. At 55 miles per hour, this is enough time to travel the entire length of a football field—blindfolded.

Unless you’ve been in a serious accident before, it’s hard to imagine the consequences of such a seemingly innocent action like texting someone a smiley face or accepting a call. But while you might think you’re an amazing multi-tasker behind the wheel, you are operating a vehicle that weighs thousands of pounds. When you’re driving is an extremely dangerous time to decide to use your phone.

Do what you need to so that you never glance down at your phone while you’re driving. Put the phone in your purse, the glove compartment, or put it on airplane mode so you don’t get notifications. If you absolutely must pick up the phone, pull over first. There’s no excuse for driving while texting or talking because it puts your life and the lives of those on the road at risk.

Pause or Pull Over

It’s not just the phone that takes attention away from the road. Sometimes the weather becomes too hot, and you want to adjust the temperature in your car. Then there are times you want to listen to music but can’t seem to find that one song you have to listen to.

When you get into situations like these, ask yourself something before you act on it.

Is it absolutely necessary? If the car temperature doesn’t change, will it distract you more? Will not hearing that song makes you a less effective driver? If the answer is yes, then by all means, do it.

But that still doesn’t mean that you should do it in the middle of the road. Wait for traffic to stop before you fiddle with the air conditioner. If going through radio stations will take several minutes, then pull over. 

Both of these are better alternatives and may help you avoid getting into an accident. 

Be The Boss

Whether you’re ferrying the kids to and from soccer practice or taking your friends to the movies, you need to be willing to step into a slightly more authoritative role when driving. Remember: you’re the boss. If you want the music softer, ask the navigator to make it softer. If the kids are yelling, tell them to stop or they’ll be missing out on the scrimmage. If you decide that you made a wrong turn and need directions, ask someone in the car for help.

Teen drivers especially struggle with speaking up and taking charge when they’re in the car with friends. This is normal; after all, these people are your friends and you’re probably wanting to goof off with them and join in the fun. But your friends want just as badly as you do to get to your destination in one piece. If they’re true friends and you need them to quiet down or tell you which way the GPS says to go, then they’ll be willing to do it. If you find that your friends don’t respect you when you’re behind the wheel, it’s time to stop offering rides to them until they can make driving safe for you.

Put On The No Smoking Sign

Smokers are already well aware of the health problems associated with cigarettes, so we’re not going to get into them here. But smoking also becomes such a natural habit for those who do it regularly that many people don’t think twice before lighting up a cigarette while they’re in the driver’s seat. Even if you don’t need to take your eyes off the road for a split second to smoke, it does take away from your mental capacity to pay attention to the road. It might be a small amount, but that little bit could be the difference between a near miss and a full-blown accident.

  • Just think about what smoking a cigarette while driving entails:
  • Finding the box of cigarettes in your bag or pulling it from your back pocket.
  • Fumbling around for a cigarette from the pack.
  • Locating your lighter.
  • Placing the cigarette in your mouth.
  • Holding the lighter in the correct spot and lighting it up.

People who smoke cigarettes won’t like having to put a hold on their use, but it’s much smarter to wait until you get to your destination to light up. If you don’t think you’ll make it that far, make a pit stop along the way.

Snack Time Is Later

Eating is something that humans do from birth, so it’s easy to feel like a mindless task when you’re driving. Unfortunately, a quick snack behind the wheel can pose a lot of unexpected problems—drinks or food can spill on you, pieces of food can fall on the floor, and things can be hotter than anticipated. So even though you’ve eaten hundreds of burgers in your life, it doesn’t prevent you from dropping your burger by your feet in the middle of a busy highway.

If all you need is a quick bite of food, why not consume your meal in the parking lot of the drive-thru or before you leave the house? When you’re eating and driving, you’re not getting to enjoy your meal that much anyway, so find other ways to satisfy your hunger that don’t compromise your driving abilities.

Breathe In, Breathe Out

A lot of things happen to us in a day, which may lead to heightened emotional states. Regardless of whether these are positive or negative emotions, it may lead you to be less careful behind the wheel.

If you’re upset, the smallest thing – whether it’s someone suddenly getting into your lane or driving behind a car that’s crawling – can trigger you into doing something rash. It may even lead to road rage, which may result in accidents or worse. 

Being extremely happy may sound like a better state, but it may also cause you to be less careful and observant. You might miss that car pulling out from the curb or pedestrians who are about to cross the street.

If you’re in a heightened emotional state, there are several things you can do to clear your mind before getting behind the wheel. It can be as simple as taking deep breaths, going for a short walk, or, if it’s really necessary, talking to someone on the phone. What’s critical is you’re in the right state of mind when you get on the road.

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