Every time you get behind the wheel, you face many distractions. Speeding drivers and wayward pedestrians make it crucial to keep your eyes on the road at all times. Then, when you add the distractions from the inside of your car, you make your commute even more dangerous. 
 
Too often, individuals try to multitask while operating their vehicles. The top offenders are texting, eating, changing the radio station, applying makeup, and tending to pets and children while driving.  
 
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), distracted driving resulted in 3,450 deaths in 2016. The Florida Highway Patrol also reported distracted drivers have increased 25 percent since 2013, and about one-tenth of fatal crashes in 2017 involved distractions. 
 
Drivers can be distracted in three main ways: taking their eyes off the road, taking their hands off the wheel, or taking their minds off what they are doing. Florida Highway Patrol officers even report that many accidents are caused simply by daydreaming. In addition, numerous cell phone users find themselves checking their phones even when they don’t notice the phone ringing or vibrating. Distractions can be physical or mental, and combining the two types increases your chances of getting into an accident. 
 
This month, we are asking Pinellas County citizens to consider how they may be creating an unsafe environment on the road due to distractions. Florida law enforcement agencies are partnering together in April for Distracted Driving Awareness Month to promote safe habits behind the wheel. 
 
The NHTSA says that teens were actually the largest age group reported as distracted at the time of fatal crashes. In order to teach our youth safe driving and to lead the way for a safer Pinellas, the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office organizes the Targeted Response Against Distracted Driving (TRADD) program in partnership with the State Farm Youth Advisory Board every year. Our deputies lead presentations in Pinellas County schools to demonstrate the dangers of using a cell phone, eating, and many other tasks while operating a vehicle. 
 
Some tips for preventing distractions on the road are:
 
1. Place your cell phone out of sight so that you are not tempted to text or have phone conversations while driving.
2. If you have passengers in the car, ask for their help so you can focus on driving—such as changing the radio station or adjusting the navigation system.
3. Properly restrain your pets or children in the car prior to starting the vehicle so they don’t move freely in the car during your trip. 
4. If you ever feel tired, sick, or distracted, pull over and take a break until you are mentally and physically ready to operate your vehicle again.
 
Remember to think twice before letting anything come between you and reaching your destination safely. Just drive, the rest can wait. 
Posted by Michelle Whiting Thursday, March 7, 2019 11:04:00 AM

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