Distraction May Be Closer than It Appears

With the 2011 Illinois Distracted Driving Summit taking place this week, the AAA Foundation wants to remind everyone of the many forms distraction can take behind the wheel and how important, and simple, it is to avoid. While cell phone use and texting behind the wheel is a potentially deadly distraction, drivers shouldn’t forget about other sources of distraction inside a car that have been around for years, long before cell phones were even invented.

Experts estimate that drivers do something potentially distracting more than 15 percent of the time their vehicles are in motion. This can range from changing the radio station to eating on the go to punching an address into a GPS. These potentially deadly actions pull your hands off the wheel, your eyes away from the road and your attention away from the task at hand—operating a powerful piece of machinery at high speeds over changing terrain alongside others doing exactly the same thing. While some car designs practically encourage this behavior—iPod connections in the console, cup holders for every passenger and dashboard navigation systems becoming more and more common—drivers need to remember the safe ways to engage in these activities, which is while the car is stopped.

The Foundation offers a few simple tips to help keep distractions while driving to a minimum:

Don’t touch that dial – adjust your seat, air conditioning and music before you even turn on the car, or wait until your stopped at an intersection when you’re on the road.
Stop to eat and drink – while it’s tempting to cruise through the drive-thru to save time, it’s always safer to stop for meals on road trips.
Plan ahead – set up your navigation system before your car leaves the driveway, or have a passenger make adjustments to your route for you along the way.
Don’t multitask and drive – in a world where speed and efficiency rule and multitasking is becoming a necessity in nearly every situation, make driving a place of refuge to do just one thing at a time, DRIVE.

We also challenge you to take the pledge to drive distraction-free for a one week. Driving while distracted is something we are all guilty of from time to time, but we all agree that its dangerous. Changing the “do as I say, not as I do” mindset is the first step to reducing the more than 5,500 deaths every year that result from this tendency. So do your part and lead by example. The next life you save could be your own.