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Seven Ways You May Be Distracted Behind the Wheel and Not Realize It Until It’s Too Late

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Distracted driving isn’t an unheard of concept. You probably already know that you need to put your cell phone down while you’re in the driver’s seat, and you definitely shouldn’t do your hair or eat a meal.

The most common cause of traffic accidents in Brooklyn, NY and other cities across the country is distracted driving, but being distracted behind the wheel doesn’t mean you’re texting or eating a cheeseburger. There are other things that may be distracting you behind the wheel, but you don’t even realize it.

Interacting With Other Passengers

Do you think the passenger in your car is keeping you awake and alert behind the wheel? It’s true that having someone to talk to in the passenger’s seat can help during long road trips when you’re feeling drowsy, but they can also be distracting too.

Arguing with another passenger can take your mind off the road, as can comical conversations that get you laughing.

Kids are especially troublesome passengers when it comes to being distracted in the car. You aren’t alone if you’ve yelled at your kids in the backseat or tried to hand them something while you’re driving.

You may have to stop giving someone a ride who is particularly distracting, you may have to ask them to be quiet while you focus on the road, and you should definitely pull over any time you need to interact with or discipline a child in the backseat.

Adjusting Controls on the Dashboard

There are a lot of ways car manufacturers have made riding in cars more comfortable. Unfortunately, it can make driving distracting too.

Every time you fidget with the temperature, switch where the heat comes from, or change the radio station, you’re taking your attention from the road. New cars are especially bad, because they have dashboards where you can do everything from look up local restaurants to make Bluetooth phone calls.

Do your best to adjust all the controls in the car before you drive away. If you have a newer car, get to know the buttons on your wheel and you may be able to change the radio station or make a phone call without taking your eyes off the road.

Using GPS

GPS has made getting around so much easier. There’s no need to read complicated maps or print out directions ahead of time. Unfortunately, it can also be distracting.

The biggest distraction with GPS technology is trying to input your destination or change your route while you’re driving. An easy fix is to make sure you get everything up and ready to go before you pull out of the driveway. If you want to look up a different destination, or if you want to change your route, pull over to put in new coordinates, or ask a passenger to do it for you.

Looking at Things Outside Your Vehicle

How could looking outside your vehicle be distracting? That’s what you’re supposed to do while you’re driving! The answer is that it depends on what you’re looking at.

If you’re watching the flow of traffic and keeping your eye on that red light, looking at things outside your vehicle is encouraged. If you’re craning your neck to get a better look at a traffic accident or you’re gazing at a pedestrian who catches your eye, you could find yourself in a car crash.

Do your best to keep your eyes on the road, watching the flow of traffic. If you notice your vision drifting, pull it back to the front of your vehicle as soon as possible.

Daydreaming

Did you know that daydreaming is the biggest cause of car accidents? Out of 65,000 fatal crashes studied in 2010 and 2011, 62-percent of them were blamed on daydreaming!

That includes dreaming of a beach vacation or hooking up with your coworker in the office, but there are other ways our minds can wander that take our attention off the road like:

  • Worrying about something at work
  • Replaying a conversation over and over in your head
  • Creating dialog for a conversation that hasn’t even happened yet
  • Thinking about the things you need to do when you get home

Daydreaming is dangerous because you can feel aware of your environment, but you aren’t consciously processing it. To stay alert, change your gaze every two seconds to avoid staring, which encourages daydreaming.

Taking a Familiar Route

You would think taking a familiar route would make you a better driver. In some ways, it can, because you know exactly where you’re turning, if there’s road construction, and where the bus stops are. However, it can make you a bad driver too.

It’s easy to space out, daydream, or think you can do other things in the car when you drive the same route over and over again. Do yourself a favor and take a different route to work at least every once in a while.

Driving a Car With High-Tech Features

High tech features make driving safer than ever before—or do they? It turns out, that’s not always the case.

A high-tech car that can tell you if you’re drifting from your lane or are about to back into something can cause complacency. If you expect your car to alert you to danger, you may become less aware of potential danger yourself because you think you can do other things behind the wheel while your car does the work for you.

Think of these systems like a backup, which means you should be just as aware as ever. That way you aren’t tempted to check your phone or back out of a parking spot without checking your blind spots.

There’s no denying that using your phone is distracting, but there are many ways your mind can wander away from the road. Being aware of all the ways you can be distracted is the first step towards eliminating those distractions and staying safe behind the wheel.

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