Driving is a huge responsibility. When your mind is elsewhere, you’re not paying attention. And when you’re not paying attention, it’s super easy for accidents to happen. Just ask the 391,000 people who got injured in a wreck involving a distracted driver in 2015. If you value your safety, watch out for these three common driving distractions

1. Internal monologues

  • “I can’t believe what my partner said to me…”
  • “Sometimes I wish people could be more appreciative…”
  • “That’s the most rude and unprofessional thing I’ve ever seen…”

Do any of those thoughts sound familiar? They’ve crossed everybody’s mind at least once or twice. Thoughts like this are so troubling that it’s hard to think about anything else.

Driving feels effortless. If you didn’t have to share the road with other drivers, you could do it with your eyes closed. This gives your mind plenty of time to deliver long-winded monologues.

The next time you drive, watch where your mind goes. Are you consciously paying attention to your surroundings? Or are you so caught up in your internal world that you fail to notice the external?

Seems innocent enough. In most cases, it is. This isn’t one of those cases. If you aren’t observing what’s happening around you, then you might get blind-sided by a car wreck that could have been prevented.

Keeping track of this stuff isn’t a passive act. In fact, it’s quite active. You should scan the horizon for threats – not just the car right in front of you – broaden your viewpoint to several cars beyond that one.

You should also check your rear and side mirrors at all times. Glance at each mirror at least once every minute or two. If you quiet your mind and keep an eye on all the surrounding vehicles, you’ll identify threats before it’s too late to react.

2. Smartphone obsession

Smartphones are tempting. You might want to check them at inappropriate times. During a play or movie. In the middle of work. At the bar with friends. Or even inside your car.

Smartphones are especially tempting when driving. If you don’t focus during a television show, you’ll miss important plot points. Checking your phone at work might get you in trouble. Unless you hang out with a boring crowd, your friends are probably more engaging than an app.

What are the worst potential consequences of texting and driving? Death and injury. Too harsh? Sorry. I’m just being real! Distracted driving isn’t always so consequential. But even a close call or fender bender is too much. Is any text important enough to justify the risk? I seriously doubt it. 

Why is texting and driving problematic? It’s the same reasoning I already explained in #1. You can’t drive effectively when you’re not concentrating. Every second you’re looking at your phone is a second where something could go wrong. At 55 MPH, you travel the length of a football field every five seconds. Would you drive that far while wearing a blind-fold? Nope. Texting and driving is the same exact thing.

Silence your phone. Or turn it off. Put it inside your purse, glove-box, or side compartment. When you can’t see your phone, it’s not as tempting to check it. If you’re afraid of upsetting a friend or partner who expects a fast response time, send a text that says: “Gonna get quiet, because I’m about to start driving. I’ll text you when I arrive.” Pass this tip along to any teen drivers you know (because they answer texts faster than anybody else I know!).

3. Engaging conversations

Have you ever got so caught up in a conversation with a passenger that you suddenly thought: “Omg! I’m supposed to be driving. And I haven’t noticed anything around me for the last several miles… eek!”

I’ll admit it. That’s happened to me. The reason why is good. I’m interested in what my friends have to say. But that becomes a “bad” thing when it distracts you from your primary responsibility: driving!

This isn’t a big deal when the roads aren’t busy or you’re driving in a familiar location. If traffic is crazy or you’re navigating an unknown area, ask your passengers to be quiet whenever you need to focus.

Don’t be afraid of offending them. Specify you just need a few minutes of silence to get through this driving situation. When things settle down, you’ll finish the conversation. So, no big whoop!

Do you want to help your friends avoid these common (and often catastrophic) driving distractions? Go ahead and share this article on Facebook and Twitter.

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