The vast majority of car accidents are entirely preventable. One or more drivers make a simple mistake, or fail to operate the car in a safe and reasonable manner, and it’s a matter of seconds before a collision occurs.
In many cases, these accidents result because at least one driver was distracted, or unwilling or unable to focus on the road. If you don’t notice a driver in front of you hitting the brakes, or a suddenly falling tree obstructing your path, you won’t be able to take evasive action or stop in time.
Fortunately, there are steps you can take to become a more focused driver – and greatly increase your safety on the road.
Eliminate Common Distractions
The best thing you can do is eliminate common sources of distraction while driving:
- Turn your phone off or put it away. Despite fully knowing the dangers of such a habit, 14 percent of drivers admit to texting and driving on a regular basis – and 48 percent of drivers will answer a ringing phone while driving. Because these numbers come from self-reported data, it’s reasonable to suspect the actual numbers are much higher. Don’t let yourself be tempted; turn your phone off completely or store it in a glove box while you’re driving.
- Avoid grooming while driving. If you’re running late for work, you might be tempted to apply makeup, wash your face, or even shave while you’re in traffic. However, doing so will focus your attention on your own reflection in the mirror – rather than the road. Find a different way to accomplish this task.
- Be reasonable with foods and beverages. There’s nothing wrong with taking a sip of water while driving now and then, but certain foods and beverages should be avoided. Both hands should be on the wheel almost 100 percent of the time, and your eyes shouldn’t leave the road for longer than a fraction of a second.
- Turn the music down. Most of us like blasting our favorite tunes while driving, especially if we’re on an extended road trip, but doing so can be a massive distraction. Keep the volume reasonable and don’t get carried away singing along.
- Avoid arguing or having hard conversations. Think about the other people in your vehicle as well. If you get embroiled in a heated argument, or if you end up talking about a sore subject, it could pull your attention from the road. Keep your conversations light and easy to manage.
- Keep the kids occupied. If you have children in the car, do what you can to keep them occupied and in good temperament. A screaming toddler in the backseat is a tough distraction to muscle through.
- Secure loose items. Pay attention to any loose items in your car, which could roll around while you’re driving. Secure them to the best of your ability.
Get Plenty of Rest
It’s surprisingly common for drivers to fall asleep behind the wheel. Even if you aren’t falling asleep, if you’re excessively tired, you may find it harder to focus on the road – and harder to react to your environment in plenty of time. Try to get ample sleep before heading out on a long drive, and if you feel tired in the middle of your drive, consider pulling over and getting some rest before continuing.
Improve Your Comfort
Next, consider improving your comfort. If you’re too comfortable, you might sink in and be tempted to fall asleep – but if you’re uncomfortable, it could pull your attention completely away from your surroundings.
- Change the temperature. If you’re pouring sweat or shivering cold, you won’t be able to focus on the road adequately. Adjust the temperature in your cabin, and repair your AC or heating systems if necessary.
- Invest in cushions. Spend a bit of money on upgraded cushions, and possibly a better headrest. It can make driving a much more pleasant experience.
- Clean your car. If your steering wheel is sticky or if there are crumbs on the dashboard, it will be easier to get distracted. Commit to cleaning your car on a regular basis.
Keep Your Eyes Focused on the Horizon
Finally, keep your eyes focused on the horizon, and don’t let yourself be distracted by sudden changes to your immediate environment. If there are cars wrecked on the side of the road, resist the temptation to gawk. If there’s an interesting billboard, catch a glance, but return your gaze to the road as soon as possible. Even a few seconds of attention lapse could be enough to trigger an accident.
It doesn’t take much time, money, or effort to be less distracted while you’re on the road. If every driver could commit to improving their focus while driving, motor vehicle fatalities would plummet.
Founder Dinis Guarda
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