April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month, and now and throughout the year you have to be more aware of the things that keep your concentration from the road. People often take driving for granted because it is such an everyday thing, but think about it: you are in charge of two tons or more of machinery that is moving at a high rate of speed through narrow lanes and complex maneuvers, with a lot of other people doing the very same thing. There is so much going on that if you lose focus even for a few seconds, disaster can ensue.

Texting is one of the main distractions. Think about how long it takes you to check a text, or even send a quick message like “almost there.” Maybe five seconds? That may not feel like a lot of time, but at 55 miles per hour you’ll travel the length of a football field in five seconds. A lot can happen in that time – cars changing lanes, a kid darting across the street, someone running a light. All of a sudden something that might have been a preventable accident is unavoidable because your eyes were on the screen.

With the hands-free options available today, there is no excuse for looking at your phone while driving. If you must read or write a text and can’t do it hands-free, then pull over. No text is worth a crash or potentially your life. Of course it’s not just texting. Check directions and hours of operation before you go so you’re not messing with your phone, and keep any mapping apps hands-free too.

Although you can legally use your phone for some things (like navigation) while driving, texting or emailing and driving are against the law and you could be issued a citation. In a construction or school zone you can’t use a phone in a handheld manner for any reason.

While they may be the biggest distractions, cell phones aren’t the only things that can keep your attention from the important task of driving. Anything that takes your eyes off the road, your hands off the wheel, or your mind off driving is a distraction. Eating is a big distraction. You’re taking at least one hand off the wheel, and we’ve all seen someone eating a burger with two hands while they drive, and know they’re steering with their knees, which isn’t smart.

Passengers are another major distraction. If you’re arguing with your significant other, laughing with rowdy friends, or tending to a child as you drive, you’re not focusing on driving. Your dog may love a car ride, but an unsecured pet can easily do things that take your attention from driving.

Have you ever inched your way through a traffic jam only to find not one crash blocking the road, but two or three separate ones? It is a natural human instinct to rubber-neck – we all want to find out what is going on – but looking at a crash, or anything on the side of the road is a distraction. Look just enough to be aware of what is going on, but don’t spend time staring at crashes or anything else on the side of the road, or you may well rear-end the car in front of you. And remember, Florida law requires you to move over one lane if you can safely do so for emergency vehicles, sanitation or utility vehicles, tow trucks, road maintenance or construction vehicles with warning lights, or any disabled vehicle on the side of the road. If you can’t safely change lanes, you must slow down to 20 miles per hour below the speed limit.

Posted by Laura Sullivan Tuesday, April 2, 2024 9:35:00 AM

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