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Consumer reports offers tips to reduce distracted driving

As our readers are aware, distracted driving is a major cause of accidents. According to a recent Virginia Tech study, distracted driving may be a factor in up to 80 percent of all car crashes, and directly responsible for roughly 5,500 fatal crashes every year.

Distracted driving can generally be broken into three types. Visually, it means taking your eyes of the road. Manually, it is taking your hands off the steering wheel. Cognitively, it means taking your mind off of the task of driving your vehicle. Consumer Reports recently published an online article discussing ways to minimize distracted driving. The following are their recommendations.

  • Set your music, temperature, and other controls prior to driving or wait until you're stopped to make changes.
  • Review your driving route prior to setting out. If you get lost, pull over and look at your maps while stopped. Program any navigation devices prior to setting out.
  • Check phone messages and make calls prior to or after driving. Hands free devices are safer, but it is still better to make calls when you're not driving. Especially avoid phone use in heavy traffic, inclement weather, or in dangerous road conditions.
  • Plan ahead to ensure you don't have to rush to get to your destination in a timely manner.
  • Loose items in your vehicle should be removed or put back in place prior to driving. Leaning over to pick something up from the floor is dangerous while driving.
  • Pets should be restrained. Animals can become excited and become a distraction in the vehicle.

Some of these tips are harder to follow than others. With some practice one can do a lot to minimize distractions and practice safer driving. That said, no amount of preparedness will prevent every accident.

Source: Consumer Reports, "How to minimize distracted driving," Jim Travers, Sep. 6, 2011.

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