( Aarp.org) – Focus is key while driving. Distractions can cause even the most experienced drivers to make dangerous mistakes.
Read these tips on how to avoid distractions behind the wheel:
Secure Your Cargo
Be sure to put all of your cargo in a secure place in your car. Reaching for loose belongings is dangerous; it takes your hands off the wheel and often takes your eyes off the road. Make sure all of your belongings are firmly held in place.
Restrain Your Pet
Restrain your pet while driving. It’s important to restrict your pet’s movement to protect it from a crash or inflating airbags.
- For dogs, consider investing in a pet seat belt, which is easy to use and works in conjunction with a normal seat belt. Keep in mind that attaching a restraining device to your dog’s collar can end up choking the pup; instead, use a harness that wraps around your dog’s chest.
- Cats should be contained in a crate, cage or pet car seat that is secured with a seat belt. Look for a sturdy carrier with enough ventilation and plenty of room for your cat to turn around and stretch out. Also make sure you secure the carrier so that it stays safely in place in case of a collision or sudden stops.
Cellphones and Other Distractions
Driving is a demanding activity that requires your full attention to many things at the same time. Do not be distracted by things not directly related to the driving task. Eliminate distractions inside the vehicle and minimize activities that require you to take your eyes off the road, especially in heavy traffic.
Here are a few rules of the road for cell phone use:
- DO NOT send or read text messages while driving.
- Make outgoing calls only when you are at your destination or parked.
- Use your voicemail for incoming calls or let a passenger talk for you.
- Put your cellphone on “silent” so that you are not tempted to answer it while driving.
- Remember, research shows that even talking on a hands-free cellphone involves concentrating on the conversation at hand, often at the expense of the driving task.
Distracted driving laws, especially when it comes to cell phone use, vary by state. See the distracted driving laws in your state.
To reduce other distractions:
- Pre-set your favorite radio stations.
- Load your favorite CD before you start driving.
- Refrain from eating, drinking and smoking.
- Know your route before starting out, so that you do not need to consult a map or directions during the trip.
- Set up your GPS-based navigation device and adjust the volume control.
- Manage passenger conversation to keep it from being distracting.
Distractions play a major role in many accidents on the roadway today, and modern technology is a major source of distraction while driving. Do your part in helping keep your roads safe by keeping your whole mind on the road and avoiding distractions!
Smart drivers know how and why to avoid distractions! Want more tips for staying focused on the road? Consider taking the AARP Smart Driver™ course—AARP Driver Safety’s flagship offering and the nation’s first and largest refresher course designed specifically for older drivers. The AARP Smart Driver course is available in a classroom and online, in both English and Spanish. In some states, you may even be eligible for a multi-year insurance discount upon completion of the course.*