When asked, "What distracts you most while driving?" nearly everyone interviewed for this piece had the same two answers — their phones and their kids.
Jordan Perch, DMV.com's chief blogger, says of the first distraction: “One of the most common distractions is using a cell phone. If you talk on your cell phone or send a text message, you are not able to hold the wheel properly and you won't have optimal control over the vehicle. This is a very dangerous habit that unfortunately a lot of drivers have.”
My advice? Put. The. Phone. Down. Turn off the ringer/text alert sound so you don't get curious about who might be trying to get in touch with you while you're on the road. Or put your phone in a place where you can't access it while you're driving, like in the back seat or in your purse on the floor of the passenger side.
As for the kids, that's not so easy.
Brandi Kreutzer, mom of two, says of her little distractions: “I love them to bits, but yikes it's hard to drive with them in the car. They always [tell] me to 'Turn around Mommy. Look at what I'm doing!' Or they need me to 'Punish him. He just hit me.' Or they have 'Just one question, Mommy — what would happen if the car caught on fire and then it flipped over and then we were underwater and then a shark came and then...' I know I'm not the only mom out there who's driven with one eye on the road while handing out juice boxes!”
I can totally relate. I've tried to explain to my young kids that when Mommy is driving (particularly on a long road trip), they need to keep their voices down and only interact with me if they need something urgently. Yes, they generally forget this rule two minutes into the trip, but if I prep enough in advance by giving them snacks, water bottles and supplying them with toys, coloring books and — yes — video games before we leave, then they are usually good to go for a little while.
Perch adds that eating and drinking are very distracting on-the-road habits. He says, “You might think that... keep[ing] your eyes on the road while holding a sandwich or a can of soda will keep you safe, but if you as much as take a look at the food, try to unwrap your food or open the can — which might last a second or two — you'll lose your focus and you're bound to hit something or someone.”
Perch also notes that reading a map in the car is something we all do without really realizing how dangerous it can be. He says, “Reading a map is both a visual and a physical distraction, since you have to look at it and hold it with one or both hands.”
So plot your course before you head out on the highway. If you get lost or need to revisit your map, pull off to the side of the road for a moment.
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