Ways to Minimize Your Distracted Driving (and Other Bad Habits)

BY SANDRA GUY

We’ve all seen the TV reporter on the local news driving while texting, knocking over traffic cones put up in a parking lot so the local police department can show viewers the hazards of distracted driving.

The demonstration isn’t just a TV ratings device. And while everyone is chomping at the bit to start driving again post-COVID, the month of April — National Distracted Driving Awareness Month — offers the perfect time to remind yourself about bad driving habits.

So let’s look at the worst of the bad-driving habits.

Using a cell phone while driving creates enormous potential for deaths and injuries on U.S. roads. In 2019, 3,142 people were killed in motor vehicle crashes involving distracted drivers, according to the latest data available from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB).

Next is text messaging, which is among the fastest ways to cause drivers to stop paying attention to the road.

Indeed, 48 states, plus Guam, Puerto Rico, Washington, D.C., and the U.S. Virgin Islands ban text messaging while driving.

Unruly passengers, including children, can cause accidents, too.

In fact, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control defines distracted driving in three ways:

Visual: Actions that take your eyes off the road.

Manual: Movement that takes your hands off the wheel.

Cognitive: Thoughts that take your focus off driving.

But how do you correct yourself and others, especially when we’re yearning for distraction after our pandemic year of being housebound?

The CDC encourages teenagers to take ownership and speak up when they see a friend driving while distracted, or make it cool to pledge to never drive distracted (a task that might be easier now that mask-wearing has become de rigueur to protect others’ lives).

Parents shouldn’t make like Homer Simpson and turn up an ear-splitting radio track of Grand Funk Railroad, even if it’s a sincere effort to educate (and embarrass) the kids about hard rock.

A more effective method might be to remind your teen who has waited so long to get out that a violation of distracted-driving laws could mean a delayed or suspended license.

Other bad habits — running stop signs, cruising through red lights, watching videos, dictating memos, taking selfies, performing TikTok scenes or arguing over the phone — can result in similar or even more serious results.

In fact, that reminder might be an effective sobering up for all of us. Just think: You didn’t sacrifice being housebound to get into such serious trouble now.

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