No Joke: Distracted Driving Can Be Deadly

April is nationally recognized as Distracted Driving Awareness Month. This past week, the Minnesota State Patrol announced that they will be focusing on preventing distracted driving in April, which will include extra enforcement to reduce distracted driving. Distracted driving is a leading crash factor, and the Minnesota State Patrol is urging motorists to pay attention behind the wheel. Now is a perfect time to share some tips with you to help you beat distracted driving going into the summer road trip months. These four tips will help you minimize the distractions that can make driving dangerous and deadly:

1. Driving Intexticated

Keep your cell phone in an accessible place but not in one where you can see it light up for every notification you receive. Your cell phone should also be on silent mode. Just because your hands aren’t on your phone doesn’t mean the distraction has been eliminated. If a phone call or text message is really important, it’s best to pull over into a safe location — preferably a parking lot — before using your phone.

2. Sleep Deprivation

Get your sleep – fatigue will cause a driver to be distracted easier and actually impairs our driving ability. Drowsy driving is distracted driving, so never drive when you’re too tired to focus on your health. Make sure your sleep routine isn’t affecting your commute. Aim to get the recommended amount of at least 7.5 to 8 hours of sleep every night. Don’t forget to energize and refuel with food before you get in your car, so you’re not scrambling to unwrap your granola bar at a red light. Moreover, adopt a habit of drinking water regularly throughout the day. Staying hydrated helps you think with clarity, which is critical when driving.

3. Kids

Driving with children isn’t just slightly more dangerous; it’s a full 12 times more dangerous, according to a study. When researchers installed cameras in the cars of 12 families over a three-week period, they found kids accounted for 12 percent of all distractions. Over the course of an average 16-minute trip, parents that had kids present spent three minutes and 22 seconds with their eyes not on the road. Make it a habit to have your kids try and wait to get your attention until after the vehicle is safely in park.

4. Focus

Even though roadways are improving shapes and cars are becoming more high-tech, the driver remains the most important part of the driving experience. In a French university study of 1,000 drivers who were at fault in a collision, thinking about things other than driving — or “mind wandering” — was found as the main cause for nearly 50 percent of the collisions. Therefore, only drive when you’re mentally and physically fit to do so. When you’re behind the wheel, pay attention to what’s happening all around your vehicle. Frequently scanning your mirrors and watching your speed will provide you with more control over your vehicle.

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