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7 Tips For Avoiding Driving Distractions

July 12, 2011

Summer’s here and with it comes the opportunity for vacation travel. There’s nothing better than getting away to the cottage or visiting relatives in another city.

Unfortunately, there’s a danger that comes with long trips in the car. Travelling in the family vehicle for extended periods of time can test the patience and attention skills of even the most experienced drivers.  These distractions may not only cause you to get a ticket, but worse it could cause you to be involved in a car accident.  In 2010, there were more than 7,000 collisions on OPP-patrolled roads due to distracted driving resulting in 35 deaths and over 1,000 injuries.

It can be challenging to maintain your attention on long trips, but here are some ideas for staying focussed and avoid potential tickets or worse an accident.

Tips for staying Focussed While Driving

1.    Do not use your cell phone while driving.

Talking on your cell phone, or worse, texting while you drive is a major source of distraction. Most Canadian provinces have banned cell phone use while driving. Hands free devices are legal in most provinces, but it should be noted that these devices still reduce your attention on the road since you have to think about the conversation you’re engaged in. The safest bet is to pull over for a brief moment if you need to make a call.

2.    Avoid eating and drinking while driving.

With the increased popularity of drive through fast food outlets, it’s become common for people to eat and drink while driving. In fact,during a recent poll, 65% percent of drivers admitted to this practice. This is nearly as distracting as cell phone use. Eating while you drive occupies at least one of your hands as well as a significant part of your available attention span. You’re better off sitting down in the restaurant to eat. It’s more enjoyable and allows you to focus your full attention on the road.

3.    Take regular breaks during long trips.   

When you’re driving for long periods of time, take a break at least once every 2 hours. Driver fatigue is a contributing factor in a high percentage of accidents. Taking regular breaks allows you to maintain your focus and helps manage your fatigue level.

If you start to feel drowsy, find yourself drifting out of your lane or struggling to keep your eyes open, find a safe place to pull over and rest as soon as possible.

4.    Let your passenger operate the radio, CD player and environmental controls.

Operating internal devices such as the radio, GPS or temperature controls is another common distraction. If you have a passenger in the front seat, it’s best to let them deal with all of the non-driving activities.

5.    Make sure children or pets are positioned securely in their seats.

It’s extremely important to take care of your child’s seat belt before the car begins moving. Pets should also be securely fastened, for their safety and so that they can’t distract you while you’re behind the wheel.

Driving with children may require you to take more frequent breaks and plan on shorter trips as their patience and attention span is considerably shorter than an adult’s. If you have an onboard video system, make sure the sound is low enough that sudden noises won’t capture your attention. Make sure children are well fed and rested before long trips so that they are better able to handle long periods in the car.

6.     Prepare for emergencies.

Think ahead to potential escape paths when you’re driving. Don’t allow yourself to become boxed in by other vehicles or concrete dividers where there’s no shoulder on the road. Stay alert in construction zones, sometimes the road can narrow or change direction quickly and without much warning.

7.    Stay calm.  

Don’t respond to the actions of other drivers or allow yourself to get involved in “road rage” incidents. If another driver reacts to you, don’t get involved or escalate the altercation. Drive defensively and try to avoid situations that will lead to disputes with other drivers.

Leave yourself more than enough time to get where you’re going, so you aren’t tempted to speed or take chances to reach your destination on time. Emotional upsets can be extremely distracting while you drive. Do your best to remain calm and relaxed. In most cases, there’s very little you can do to reach your destination faster so relax and accept that you will be there as soon as you can.

Being aware of distractions and preparing ahead of time to avoid them will help keep you and your family safe on the roads and give you a more relaxing and enjoyable vacation.

To learn more about distracted driving fines in the province of Ontario please see our previous article, Distracted Driver Fines Now In Effect.