Keep your eyes on the road and your hands on the wheel

By • Published: September 7th, 2010
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

Just getting into your car and taking a short trip down the road is an exercise in multitasking, albeit seemingly on autopilot: You’re monitoring the surroundings for signs of danger, changing lanes and speed, and, let’s not forget, operating a heavy piece of hi-tech equipment.

Add text messaging or tweeting to the list and things could get out of control. Low-tech temptations such as applying mascara or eating a sandwich can also drive a driver to distraction.

Distraction slows your response time and lessens your ability to control the vehicle. It is implicated in more than a million motor vehicle crashes a year in North America, costing thousands of lives and billions of dollars, according to the AAA [Triple-A] Foundation for Traffic Safety.

On average, people spend an hour-and-a-quarter in their cars and are engaged in potentially distracting behavior more than 15 percent of the time, by some estimates.

Just talking to a passenger or glancing in the rear view mirror to check on children in the back seat can be distracting. But there are plenty of eye-catchers outside of the car too —many a person has rear-ended another car because he or she was looking out the window and didn’t notice that the traffic ahead had stopped. It’s not just things in and around the car that can distract. Things on your mind can too, whether it’s that meeting, math exam or impending vacation.

Roads can be safer when drivers follow a few simple measures, according to AAA. Adjust seat, mirror, air and music settings and program your navigator before releasing the brakes. Pull over if you need to eat, attend to children or use the phone. Those little things could play a big role in whether or not you make to that vacation you’re daydreaming about.