5 Distractions Most Drivers Miss

Posted & filed under distracted driving.

Most drivers understand that texting and other cell phone use is a dangerous distraction while driving. Beyond the now-obvious cell phone dangers, there are numerous other perilous distractions, some of which have been with us since the beginning of the automobile era. With commute times increasing and in-car amenities expanding, it’s easy to become distracted by seemingly harmless activities. But careful drivers should be vigilant about these oft-unheralded distractions:

Distracted driving danger #1: Eating and/or drinking
Cup holders have been standard in most vehicles for almost 20 years. Travel mugs are a $1.9 billion dollar industry according to some estimates. When reaching for that morning coffee or afternoon beverage, few drivers think of the potential dangers they’re creating: distractions can result from spills, mouth burns, or even the split-second it might take to remove a beverage from its holder. The potential dangers from eating are even worse. The safe move in this scenario: if you must eat or drink in the car, wait until you’re at a complete stop such as a red light or traffic jam.
Distracted driving danger #2: Talking to passengers
Chatting with passengers is another major potential distraction. With guests in the car, it’s natural to want to play the good host and make sure your drivers are entertained. Even a casual polite conversation is a potential distraction. If you’re distracted by passengers while driving, the safest thing to do is pull over the vehicle (if possible) until the distraction ceases.
Distracted driving danger #3: Using a GPS navigation system
Almost every automotive navigation system displays a similar warning at startup: Do not input data or queries into this device while driving. Some GPS systems even include an optional feature that prevents data entry while the car is in motion. But the entire point of a GPS navigational system is to help drivers find their location quickly and easily — so it’s especially difficult to resist the temptation to enter an address while the car is in motion. After all, stopping to input the data will just slow you down, right? The fact is, entering data into a GPS while driving is just as dangerous as texting, and possibly more so. And, if you try to adjust your trip while driving, there’s a good chance you’ll miss the best turn or freeway exit. It’s better to arrive a few minutes late than not at all, so when you need to tweak your Tomtom or goose your Garmin, find a safe place to pull over. It’s safer, and it just might save you from making yet another u-turn when possible.
Distracted driving danger #4: Listening to music, or adjusting the stereo
Automotive audiophiles have more choices today than ever before. When buying a new vehicle, you can choose from adapters for portable MP3 players, in-car digital audio players, CDs, CD changers, satellite radio, HD radio — pretty much everything except cassette or 8-track players. All of this is fun, to be sure, but remember that the driver’s focus needs to be on the road, not on the tunes. Adjust your audio only when at a complete stop. Keep the volume low enough so it doesn’t block out outside noise. And never, ever, drive while wearing earbuds or headphones.
Distracted driving danger #5: Smoking
Because smoking is recognized as a dangerous, unhealthy habit, it’s easy to forget that millions of adults still smoke. And because smoking in public places is increasingly prohibited or discouraged, many smokers find their daily commute to be the one place where they can indulge their habit. If eating or drinking is dangerous while driving, just imagine how dangerous it is to smoke a cigarette or cigar behind the wheel! Experts encourage smokers to avoid their addiction while driving. If you must smoke, find a reasonable place to do so either before or after you start your drive. If smoking while driving has become habitual for you, try chewing gum instead (either nicotine gum or plain old chewing gum). This could even be the first step toward giving up cigarettes for good.