In this day and age, there are dozens of ways to get distracted in our cars. Because of the tendency to get distracted, motorists must be even more diligent in keeping distractions at bay. According to the Texas Department of Transportation (TXDOT), in 2011, more than 81,000 Texas crashes involved distracted driving. There are a select few distractions that tend to be the worst culprits, but by recognizing them, we can work towards eliminating them.
#1. THE DISTRACTION: CELL PHONE USE/TEXTING
This is the biggest one on the list, both because cell phones are still new, and because they take up such a dangerous amount of your attention. Within a few years of their existence, most states banned handheld cell phone use and texting. And even though Texas isn’t one of them, it might be a good idea to adhere to the idea.
Put your phone in the trunk before you buckle up. Simple as that. You won’t hear it beep, you won’t feel it vibrate, and you won’t be able to give in to the urge to check it every 5 seconds. It doesn’t matter if it’s a love note, or your CAT scan results. It can wait.
#2. THE DISTRACTION: EATING AND DRINKING
Most people won’t even recognize this as a problem, because everyone does it. But guess what? If it takes up any of your attention, it’s contributing to distracted driving. And yeah, there aren’t any laws against it in the state of Texas, but really, there shouldn’t have to be.
Just don’t do it. But of course you will, so just try to do it smartly. Don’t bring a rotisserie chicken and a mug of hot cocoa on your morning commute. Try to eat things that you don’t have to look at. Think “burger” instead of “taco.”
#3. THE DISTRACTION: FIXING YOUR HAIR AND MAKEUP
Who among us hasn’t been rushed out the door, late for work, school, or a date? It happens. But using the rearview mirror to groom yourself is foolish on a number of levels. One: if you’re looking at yourself in the rearview, you’re not looking out the front window. Two: you aren’t looking behind you, either. And three: face it—you’re going to do a sloppy job.
And lest you think that this is just for the ladies—I’ve driven by a guy who was straight up shaving in the rearview. Men can be just as narcissistic as women—probably even more so, considering Narcissus himself was a guy.
Come on. Ask yourself this: would the person you’re going to meet prefer you slightly unkempt, or mangled around a tree? If the latter, you may want to rethink that meeting.
If you find yourself falling victim to these distractions, you might want to bone up on your safe driving skills with a defensive driving course. Even if you successfully manage to avoid the distractions above, there are many other directions in which your attention can be pulled. For example: adjusting the radio or MP3 player, reading a map, or just talking to your passengers. There is no end to the constant distractions a driver must face. But if you understand the importance of keenly focused driving, and the danger inherent in distraction, you’re already a safer driver.