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One of the biggest threats to your safe driving is also probably one of your favorite companions: your smartphone. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports texting while driving is one of the most dangerous types of driving behaviors, since sending or reading a text takes eyes off the road for about 5 seconds. That’s enough to cover a football field’s distance while traveling at 55 miles per hour. The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety reports taking your eyes off the road for more than 2 seconds doubles your risk of a crash.

Distracted driving isn’t just a danger caused by smartphone usage. Other causes of distracted driving include:

  • Looking up directions
  • Talking with a passenger
  • Turning around in a seat
  • Searching for something that dropped
  • Doing another task (like eating or applying makeup) while driving

Distracted driving is deadly. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports in 2016, 3,450 people died in crashes involving distracted drivers, and more than 390,000 people were injured in crashes involving distracted drivers in 2015.

If you’re the distracted driver in a crash that seriously injures or kills someone, your distracted driving may be deemed negligent in court. Avoid costly settlements and the pain of knowing you’ve hurt or even killed someone else. Never drive while distracted. Follow these tips.

How to Avoid Driving DistractedlyKnow Where You’re Going Ahead of Time

If you need directions for your destination, before you put your car into drive, input where you’re going into your GPS system. Better yet, review the entire route before driving so you have a better idea of how you’ll navigate. If you need to re-route or get clarity into directions, pull off to the side of the road first.

Set Your Playlist Before Taking Off

Scrolling through a music player filled with potentially thousands of songs is enough to take your eyes off the road for several seconds. Set up your playlist before you drive, and put your music player somewhere unreachable so you’re not tempted to grab it while driving. If you need to change the radio, make sure you’re completely stopped.

Use Technology to Keep You Safe

Technology can actually be an asset to staying safe while driving. Apple phones with iOS 11 operating systems and later come with a Do Not Disturb While Driving feature, which keeps phones silent and keeps screens dark. People who message you while driving will receive an auto-reply that you are driving. OneTap is an app that works similarly for Android. There’s also an app called Drivemode for Android that enables hands-free message and call responses. Check the cell phone laws for your state before using a phone in any capacity while driving, since text messaging while driving is illegal in most states.

How to Avoid Driving DistractedlyPull Over When You Need to Turn Your Focus Away from the Road

Knowing that just 2 seconds is enough time to double your chance of an accident, pull over to the side of the road whenever you need to handle something. This can include:

  • Having a serious conversation with a passenger
  • Looking up anything on your phone
  • Checking the car manual because you’re unsure about what a car light means or what a button does

Every time you drive, your goal should be to put all your focus on the road in front of you whenever your car is turned on. If you are unable to, you should halt driving.

Don’t Be Afraid to Speak Up to Passengers

A study reported by the American Council on Science and Health found conversations with passengers in a car degrade driver awareness, negatively impacting reaction times, lane position, speed, distance and driver response. Before you drive with passengers in the car, tell them your focus is on safe driving, to protect not only you, but them. Ask for conversations to be quiet so they don’t distract you. If you are not comfortable talking with passengers while driving due to the risks, let them know before you drive.

Put Food and Drinks in the Back

Eating and drinking behind the wheel should never happen, but there may be times when you pick up food to-go to take home or to work. Don’t let tantalizing smells tempt you while driving. Put food behind your seat so you’re not inclined to nosh while on the road. Keep a lid on drinks, and put them as far away from you as safely possible so you don’t deal with spills or a hot beverage landing on your lap while you’re driving.

Take the Pledge

Imagine what your life would be like if you killed someone because you were driving distractedly. Not only would you have to face time in court and possibly in jail, but you’d have to live every day knowing you took away someone else’s chance to live because of your negligence.

Nothing is more important than safe driving while you are in a car. You can join more than 30 million people who have taken the It Can Wait pledge, which states the driver will always drive distraction-free and that the driver pledges to be an advocate for the cause. Taking a minute to commit can reinforce that you’ve put forth the effort to declare that you support distraction-free driving. By taking on an advocate role and sharing your views with other drivers, you can help to decrease distracted driving in your community and beyond.

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