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Driving a car is a complex physical and mental operation. Not only does it require coordination and reflexes, it also requires rapid assessment skills and good judgment. Automakers have spent decades making cars easier and safer to drive, installing everything from rear view mirrors to automatic transmissions to cruise control. Despite that, some drivers insist on creating distractions for them behind the wheel, most of which have nothing to do with driving, safe or otherwise.
We've compiled a list of distracting activities that we've witnessed on the road.
We have all done it on a busy day. A quick trip through the drive-through, and before you know it, you're eating a double cheeseburger with one hand, French fries with the other, balancing a soda with your elbow and steering with your knees. Beyond being a recipe for indigestion, eating behind the wheel is unsafe and distracting.
Ladies, we know that it's impossible to get ready on time in the morning. But please, don't try to put on your mascara in traffic. Not only are you diverting your attention from the road, you're also at risk of looking like a sad clown by the time you get to the office.
Gentlemen, just because that razor is cordless doesn't mean that you should use it everywhere. While you concentrate on getting your sideburns even, traffic has bunched up behind you and you're driving on the shoulder. Shave at home, or wait until you get to work.
Talking on the Phone!
"Research shows that driving while using a cell phone can pose a serious cognitive distraction and degrade driver performance," according to NHTSA, using a hands-free device can reduce distraction, but not eliminate it. In other words, hang up and drive.
The driver in front of you on your morning commute weaves and swerves. You pull alongside, expecting to see an inebriated driver. Instead, a starched and pressed business person pilots the vehicle while texting with both thumbs on a PDA which rests on the steering wheel. Texting is unsafe at any speed but zero.
As of July 1, 2009 a new law where writing, sending, or reading a text-based communication while driving will be against the law for all drivers in the State. This new law applies to electronic wireless communications devices used to manually communicate with any person using text-based communication, including, but not limited to, communications referred to as a text message, instant message, or electronic mail.
State Code TCA 55-8-199: Violating this law is punishable by a base fine of $50 for a first offense and up to $10 for court costs.
Recently, the National Highway Transportation Safety Agency (NHTSA) published a document with guidelines for automakers on how to minimize the distractions caused by in-vehicle electronics. Among equations for determining optimal display viewing angles and testing procedures is the recommendation that navigation devices should only show static or near-static images.
Chrysler LLC recently announced that it will launch an in-vehicle wireless internet system for its vehicles. According to Chrysler, "'u-connect web' transforms the vehicle into a mobile 'hot spot,' delivering unlimited, reliable and uninterrupted Internet connectivity." The system will be available as a dealer installed accessory for Dodge, Chrysler and Jeep vehicles.
In-car entertainment can really make a road trip pass by quickly for the passengers. But we've seen vehicles with LCD screens installed in the dash, in clear view of the driver, blaring video entertainment while the vehicle moves through traffic. Drive-in movies are one thing; a driving movie is something else entirely. Be sure to keep entertainment screens out of the driver's line of sight.
Concentration is one of the essential elements of safe driving. Any activity, thought or feeling such as daydreaming, mental napping, window shopping, scenic viewing or intense arguments can distract the driver from what is occurring on the road and result in a collision. Driving a motor vehicle requires an individual's full attention.
Do you sit behind the steering wheel of the family car? If so, chances are that you are being driven to distraction. And this can have dangerous consequences.
People in the passenger seat can act as another pair of eyes and can do handy things like read out directions, spot parking spaces, tune the radio for you and so on. But over all they can be a big distraction.
For many parents, there are pint-sized distractions every day in the back seat. Yes, driving with kids in the car can be particularly distracting especially if there is crying, whining, or some other issue that warrants attention. Usually it’s either a dropped toy, needing a tissue, drink, or snack, that forces me to reach back and try to assist.
Put simply – any distraction that reduces your awareness of driving environment, your ability to make decisions and react, or affects your driving performance can result in a near crash or a collision, often with fatal results – it is better to be safe than sorry.
Pets can move around and distract drivers just as passengers. You should never allow the pet to interfere with you driving. If your pet is in the back of an open truck, he or she should be on a secured leash.
It doesn’t matter if you’re having a hot coffee or a cold cup of water, drinking and spills can be a distraction that removes your eyes from the road.
It is impossible to read and drive as your eyes can’t be in two places at the same time.
BUCKLE UP, IT'S THE LAW!
Let's talk about safety belts and child seats:
State law requires drivers and all passengers to use a safety restraint system while riding in a motor vehicle.
The driver and all passengers transported upon a highway in a motor vehicle shall be properly secured in a child passenger restraint system or safety belt. If a passenger is under the age of 16, the driver, or parent or legal guardian (if present in the vehicle), will be cited if the passenger is not properly restrained. Passengers 16 years of age and older are held responsible and will be cited if not wearing a seat belt.
Please Note: All children transported upon a highway in a motor vehicle shall be properly secured in a car seat or booster seat unless the child is at least one of the following:
Here are some additional tips for using a child safety seat:
Safety belts can reduce injuries and deaths. Many studies and actual crash tests have proven this. Crash tests have also reinforced the proper way for pregnant women to wear lap and shoulder belts.
Wear the lap belt as low as possible under the abdomen and the shoulder strap between the breasts and to the side of the abdomen's bulge.
If you wear only a lap belt when driving, your chances of living through a collision are twice as good as those of someone who isn't. If you wear a lap and shoulder belt, your chances are three to four times better. You must wear both your lap and shoulder belt if the vehicle is equipped with both even if the vehicle is equipped with air bags.