According to the National Safety Council (the people who really know all about this sort of thing) there’s an accident every 24 seconds caused by cell phones and texting. So far this year, that’s about 760,000 wrecks. If that’s not enough to scare you into wanting to stay home and never get into a car again, there’s more: distracted driving is about as damaging as drunk driving, with experts pointing out that someone can be stone cold sober and still have their attention dangerously diverted to the point where their reaction times are equivalent to having a few too many drinks. But there are plenty of other distractions that drivers leave themselves wide open to that have absolutely nothing to do with texting or talking.
1) Hands-free talking. A lot of states have implemented laws that forbid you from driving around with a phone glued to your ear, requiring people to buy hands-free headsets if they want to talk and drive. But there’s actually a lot of information that tells us taking this extra step doesn’t do all that much to eliminate what’s really at cause, which is the distraction of the conversation you’re embroiled in. If you think having your Bluetooth ear-piece inserted is going to cut back on your risk of getting into an accident, think again.
2) Eating. We’ve all done it, and we should all be ashamed of ourselves for having done so. But sometimes, the temptation to kill two birds with one stone is so strong that you find yourself chowing down on a burger and fries while cruising along at 75 miles per hour. If you’re under the assumption that this is a safe thing to do, you’re wrong. It may not be against the law to have your lunch while negotiating traffic, but it ought to be for the heightened risk you’re putting yourself and others in line for.
3) Music. Before those of you who deride loud rap or metal pat yourselves on the back for having better musical tastes than the majority of people around you, consider the fact that it doesn’t really matter what kind of music you’re listening to while you’re driving. You could be cruising along jamming out to old Barry Manilow classics – that doesn’t mean that you’re any less of a danger than the kid beside you doing irreparable damage to his eardrums. Music is music, and the stats tell us that unless you’ve got your volume set low enough to be able to hear the traffic around you, you’re a rolling hazard. Using headphones or ear buds only makes matters worse, so before you plug in and tune out, ask yourself if it’s worth causing an accident.
4) Driving with others. Okay, there’s not a lot you can do about this one. Parents have to take their kids to school, and millions of people each year carpool as a way to save money. Nobody’s saying that you have to drive alone – but you don’t have to buy into statistics to be reminded that the more people you’ve got in your car, the more distracted you’re likely to become. So what can you do? First of all, if you’re a parent with kids who like to scream and yell and leap from one seat to another, it’s time to put your foot down and insist on orderly behavior. Second, if you’re going to be playing designated driver for your pals or simply assuming behind the wheel responsibilities for this week’s carpool, it’s important to institute some ground rules. Be sure that all of your passengers know that when you’re driving, seatbelts must be worn and loud talking or otherwise nutty behavior could be grounds for getting excluded in the future. Your kids and your friends might think you odd, but at least you won’t be paying through the nose for liability.
Just because you’re the kind of responsible driver who doesn’t talk or text while driving, this doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re the safest driver on the road or that you’re completely focused on the task at hand. By eliminating some of the other factors that also cause accidents, you can keep your insurance premiums low, eliminate the need to pay for costly repairs, and protect yourself (and others) from serious bodily harm.