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Distraction is a curse of modern life. Between our cell phones and computer screens, not to mention our kids and coworkers, our attention is constantly being diverted. It can become difficult to focus on any one task—or any one person—for very long.
If you are ready to take back your life from incessant distractions, you need to follow four steps to become indistractable:
- Master internal triggers.
- Make time for traction.
- Hack back external triggers.
- Prevent distraction with pacts.
Tips To Help You Focus On The Road
Nearly everyone is guilty of some form of distracted driving. In fact, distracted drivers are almost everywhere you look: the cell phone socialite, the in-car iPod DJ, the high-fashion cosmetician, the 3-course meal king or queen.
Here are some good ideas to help you drive more safely
- Use your cell phone for emergency situations only. While you’re driving, a cell phone should only be used for emergency purposes. Even then, it’s best to pull over safely to the right shoulder to make a call. Even hands-free devices can still cause you to miss important visual and audio cues needed to avoid a crash.Social conversations on cell phones should not be carried on while driving. Remember, it’s against the law in a growing number of jurisdictions. You could be ticketed and fined.
- If you are drowsy, pull off the road. Drowsiness increases the risk of a crash by nearly four times. A government study showed that 37 percent of U.S. drivers have nodded off or actually fallen asleep at least once during their driving careers. If you feel tired, get off the road; don’t try to get home faster.
- You should limit the number of passengers, as well as the level of activity inside the car. Most states’ graduated driver licensing laws prohibit teens from having teenage passengers in the car with them during their early months of driving solo. Driving with friends can create a dangerous driving environment because novice drivers are focused on their friends rather than the road.
- Avoid eating while driving. Being busy is no excuse for distracted driving. Finishing your breakfast on the way to work or school may seem like a time-saver, but it means you are less attentive to the drivers around you. Food spills are a major cause of distraction.
- Do your multi-tasking outside the car. Everyone spends a lot of time in their vehicles, and it may seem like the perfect time to get little things done: calling friends, searching for good music, maybe even text messaging. Don’t do it. Focus on the road and the drivers around you. Get everything settled before you start driving.
Take your time driving. The entire object is to keep yourself and your passengers safe on the road.
Studies have shown that people are limited in the amount of information they can process at any one time. To accommodate the multiple demands that occur during driving, people are forced to shift their attention back and forth. Teens have even less experience behind the wheel so distractions are more costly.
The Keys to Defensive Driving
As a defensive driver, you can avoid crashes and help lower your risk behind the wheel.
If you’ve been out on the roads, you know that not everyone drives well — but most people think they do. Some drivers speed aggressively. Others wander into another lane because they aren’t paying attention. Drivers may follow too closely, make sudden turns without signaling, or weave in and out of traffic.
Aggressive drivers are known road hazards, causing one third of all traffic crashes. But inattentive or distracted driving is becoming more of a problem as people “multitask” by talking on the phone, texting or checking messages, eating, or even watching TV as they drive.
You can’t control the actions of other drivers. But updating your defensive driving skills can help you avoid the dangers caused by other people’s bad driving.
Skills That Put You in Control
Before you get behind the wheel of that two-ton frame of glass and steel, here are some tips to help you stay in control:
Stay focused. Driving is primarily a thinking task, and you have a lot of things to think about when you’re behind the wheel: road conditions, your speed and position, observing traffic laws, signs, signals, road markings, following directions, being aware of the cars around you, checking your mirrors — the list goes on. Staying focused on driving — and only driving — is critical to safe driving.
Distractions, like talking on the phone or eating, make a driver less able to see potential problems and properly react to them. It’s not just teen drivers who are at fault: People who have been driving for a while can get overconfident in their driving abilities and let their driving skills get sloppy. All drivers need to remind themselves to stay focused.
Stay alert. Being alert (not sleepy or under the influence) allows you to react quickly to potential problems — like when the driver in the car ahead slams on the brakes at the last minute. Obviously, alcohol or drugs (including prescription and over-the-counter drugs) affect a driver’s reaction time and judgment. Driving while drowsy has the same effect and is one of the leading causes of crashes. So rest up before your road trip.
What’s your driving style?
Car crashes are the #1 killer of teens. You can’t control how other people drive, but what about you? Let our quiz give you some insight into your driving habits.
Watch out for the other guy. Part of staying in control is being aware of other drivers and roadway users around you (and what they may suddenly do) so you’re less likely to be caught off guard. For example, if a car speeds past you on the highway but there’s not much space between the car and a slow-moving truck in the same lane, it’s a pretty sure bet the driver will try to pull into your lane directly in front of you. Anticipating what another driver might do and making the appropriate adjustment helps reduce your risk.
Eight Secrets of Super Driving
When you drive defensively, you’re aware and ready for whatever happens. You are cautious, yet ready to take action and not put your fate in the hands of other drivers. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, 90% of all crashes are attributed to driver error.
Following these defensive driving tips can help reduce your risk behind the wheel:
- Think safety first. Avoiding aggressive and inattentive driving tendencies yourself will put you in a stronger position to deal with other people’s bad driving. Leave plenty of space between you and the car in front. Always lock your doors and wear your seatbelt to protect you from being thrown from the car in a crash.
- Be aware of your surroundings — pay attention. Check your mirrors frequently and scan conditions 20 to 30 seconds ahead of you. Keep your eyes moving. If a vehicle is showing signs of aggressive driving, slow down or pull over to avoid it. If the driver is driving so dangerously that you’re worried, try to get off the roadway by turning right or taking the next exit if it’s safe to do so. Also, keep an eye on pedestrians, bicyclists, and pets along the road.
- Do not depend on other drivers. Be considerate of others but look out for yourself. Do not assume another driver is going to move out of the way or allow you to merge. Assume that drivers will run through red lights or stop signs and be prepared to react. Plan your movements anticipating the worst-case scenario.
- Follow the 3- to 4-second rule. Since the greatest chance of a collision is in front of you, using the 3- to 4-second rule will help you establish and maintain a safe following distance and provide adequate time for you to brake to a stop if necessary. But this rule only works in normal traffic under good weather conditions. In bad weather, increase your following distance an additional second for each condition such as rain, fog, nighttime driving, or following a large truck or motorcycle.
- Keep your speed down. Posted speed limits apply to ideal conditions. It’s your responsibility to ensure that your speed matches conditions. In addition, higher speeds make controlling your vehicle that much more difficult if things go wrong. To maintain control of your vehicle, you must control your speed.
- Have an escape route. In all driving situations, the best way to avoid potential dangers is to position your vehicle where you have the best chance of seeing and being seen. Having an alternate path of travel also is essential, so always leave yourself an out — a place to move your vehicle if your immediate path of travel is suddenly blocked.
- Separate risks. When faced with multiple risks, it’s best to manage them one at a time. Your goal is to avoid having to deal with too many risks at the same time.
- Cut out distractions. A distraction is any activity that diverts your attention from the task of driving. Driving deserves your full attention — so stay focused on the driving task.
If you’re interested in taking a defensive driving course to help sharpen your driving knowledge and skills, contact your local AAA or your state’s Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). Many states keep a list of approved defensive driving course providers, and lots of these offer online programs. In some states, you may be eligible for insurance premium discounts, “positive” safe driving points, or other benefits. These courses do cost money, but it’s worth the investment to be a smarter, safer driver.