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Avoid Distraction & Drive Safe

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 25% of all police-reported traffic accidents can be blamed, in part, on driver distraction. While no one distraction gets all of the blame, recent advances in technology have caused a spotlight to shine upon cell phones, and increasingly, iPods and other media players. Several states have enacted laws regarding the use of cell phones while driving and other legislation is pending. With or without a law, however, it is ultimately up to us to make a conscious decision to limit distractions and drive safely.

Cell Phone Safety

Much controversy exists over cell phone safety while driving. Some proponents of cell phone legislation firmly believe that it is the physical handling of the phone, such as dialing or scrolling to look for a number that causes the dangerous driver distractions we hear about in the press, on the television news, and over the Internet. Others, as firmly convicted as the former, believe it is the conversation itself that distracts drivers, and therefore oppose cell phone legislation that includes hands-free mandates.

The issue isn't likely to be resolved any time soon. While more states are passing laws and/or introducing legislation regarding the use of cell phones while driving, it will be some time before ongoing research is able to draw the appropriate conclusions. In the meantime, we have to police ourselves, just as we do every time we get behind the wheel. In the same way that most of us buckle our seat belts not to avoid getting a ticket, but because we believe we'll be safer, we must give due diligence to the use of cell phones while we're driving.

To millions of people, a cell phone is as necessary as car keys when preparing to go somewhere in the car. To their credit, they have saved countless lives because, as long as we can get a signal, we can summon help immediately from almost anywhere. Many people drive with a cell phone for the express purpose of being able to use it in the event of an emergency. Next to the safety factor, the convenience is unparalleled to most modern conveniences.

The whole issue of using cell phones while driving isn't confined to teenagers chatting with their friends either. Business men and women continue conversations started in the office, make multi-million dollar deals, and corporate life and death decisions, all while driving through rush hour traffic. We make appointments, check on sick children, get our bank balances, and occasionally, argue with someone, all while making split-second decisions that can, and has had horrifying consequences. Until we're subject, as some of us already are, to laws that ban the use of cell phones while driving, or at least require some sort of hands-free device, we'll have to rely on our own judgment to stay safe while driving. To that end, consider equipping your cell phone with a hands-free device that you can use while driving. Investigate the voice prompt capability on your cell phone that may allow you to answer the phone with your voice only.

Think twice about the calls you routinely make while driving. Is it imperative that you make that phone call right then, or can it wait until you've reached your destination? If you absolutely have to make calls while you're on the road, keep the conversations to a bare minimum. If you know you have an important call to make, arrange to do so when you're not driving. Remember, ongoing research suggests it's not just the physical act of handling the phone that causes a driver to be distracted, but the conversation he or she is engaged in plays an important role also.

iPod Safety

Most of us have driven with our favorite tunes since we first learned to drive, so driving with music playing is certainly nothing new. However, as technology advances, we're able to do much more than listen to music. Just like cell phones allow users to do much more than talk, iPods allow users to do much more than listen. With hours and hours of video playback and thousands of photographs and songs contained on these mind-boggling gadgets, an otherwise careful driver with a clean driving record can find herself in a perilous situation in mere seconds.

Whether fooling with the gadget itself, or getting so caught up in the content so as to be distracted, iPod use while driving is an accident waiting to happen without conscious thought beforehand. For one thing, avoid the use of headphones or ear buds while driving because you never know what you may hear in a split second that could save your life or the lives of others. You can integrate your iPod with most car stereo systems and enjoy the stereo sound without anything interfering with your hearing.

Perhaps the most important suggestion however, is to choose your audio before you begin driving, rather than searching for something while your eyes should be on the road. Whether you've downloaded an audio book or have a favorite playlist, you can set this up before you take the wheel and enjoy it just as much as you would otherwise. Save the video playback for later, even if you think you won't be tempted to glance over at the screen. Just one sideways glance is all it takes to distract a driver to danger.