One of the hardest parts about being a new driver in today’s world is avoiding the many distractions that come along with it. With a steady stream of new technologies readily available, it’s important to learn how to keep your focus on the road. Teens are especially susceptible to these types of distractions, and because you may have little experience driving, it’s imperative to minimize risks. Here are some of the ways you can do so:
Do not drive while upset or highly emotional
When your mind is on other parts of your life, it’s hard to keep your attention focused on the road. If you find yourself upset or angry while driving (related to a driving incident or otherwise), it’s important to pull off of the road and refocus your energy. Close your eyes, take several deep breaths, and try your best to relax. If you can’t focus on the task at-hand, try taking a short walk or drinking some water. Just make sure you have time to settle down before hitting the road again. If you find yourself feeling hurried or rushed before you start your journey, take a bit of time to relax before leaving. You’ll be less likely to speed and become frustrated with careful drivers or heavy traffic. If road rage is the cause of your distress, be sure to keep all rude or hostile gestures to yourself. This will only make the situation worse. Also be sure to acknowledge your errors with other drivers by making apologetic gestures.
If you feel tired or drowsy, pull off the road as soon as possible
Drowsiness is one of the leading factors in auto crashes each year. Try to take a short nap or walk to regain some energy. It’s not a good idea to try to get to your destination at a faster rate. This could lead to speeding tickets or an accident. If necessary, buy a coffee or other caffeinated drink (like tea), to help you stay awake. Be sure to finish your beverage before getting back on the road.
Try not to eat and drive at the same time
This can lead to less attentiveness to the world around you. While it may seem like a time-saver, if you happen to spill something, it could become a major distraction.
Do not use your cell phone while driving
Whether you’re thinking about taking/making a call or texting, cell phone use is one of the most common distractions in a vehicle today. In many states, talking on or texting on your cell phone is illegal unless you pull over on the side of the road. If you are caught doing either while driving, you could receive a fine. Cell phones should be used for emergency situations only, and you should still pull off the road in these cases. Even hands-free cell phone calls can be distracting, as they can cause you to miss important audio and visual cues on the road.
Try not to use any technologies while driving
From adjusting your radio to using your GPS unit, multi-tasking while driving is never a smart choice. If you must use a GPS system, keep it as close to your driving gaze as possible, which is usually a 30-degree field of view from the windshield. However, it’s best to know where you’re going before starting your journey. Review your map(s)/ GPS unit as much as possible before leaving. You should also familiarize yourself with your vehicle’s controls before starting your journey (such as your wipers, cruise control, headlights, and turn signals) so that you will not become frustrated or confused while driving.
Do not attempt grooming practices while driving
This includes combing/brushing your hair, shaving, putting on makeup, and taking off your coat or changing clothes.
Keep your music at a reasonable volume
Music that is too loud cannot only earn you fines in a community setting but can also distract you from the road. Using earplugs and headphones is also a dangerous choice. Loud music leads you to miss important audio cues and to miss hearing emergency vehicles with which you are sharing the road.
Do not read while driving
Yes, it does happen. If you need to reference a road map, pull off the road to do so.
Try not to smoke while driving
This may be a tough feat to accomplish for dedicated smokers who find smoking while driving to be relaxing, but they should be avoided. When a driver is distracted by falling ashes, he/she is at higher risk for a collision.
Limit the number of passengers inside your vehicle
If possible, limit the number of persons and the amount of activity within your vehicle. Talking, singing, and other activities in which passengers engage can be very distracting for a driver. Many states even require teenage passengers to leave their friends at home during their first few months of driving. When driving with friends, teens often pay more attention to them than they do to the road. If passengers are distracting you while you’re driving, don’t be afraid to speak up. Being momentarily embarrassed is much better than getting into an accident.
Secure all passengers and equipment
If you’re chauffeuring your smaller siblings, make sure they are buckled up properly and provided with age-appropriate toys and books. If you’re bringing a pet along, make sure he/she is safely secured in a harness or pet carrier (preferably the latter). A soft carrier is best, as a hard carrier can shatter during an accident. Also, be sure to prioritize your equipment according to when and how you’ll use it during your travels. Put the most important (most frequently used) items nearest to you and the least important farther away. The most effective way to prioritize your equipment is by taking advantage of all of the storage compartments surrounding you, such as the middle console and the side door pocket. You can also store items in the glove compartment to be handed to you by a helpful passenger.