Don’t be a distracted driver

Chances are you are running out the door coffee in hand, bagel in your mouth, and kids in tow.  You have to make it to two different school drop-offs by 8:10, grab the train by 8:25, your entire house overslept this morning, and time, well it’s already 7:57.   Like most of us, this can be a typical Tuesday morning.  As you juggle all the kids into their seats and start driving, sipping your hot coffee, it spills down the front of your shirt.  You reach into the glove box to grab a stash of Dunkin Donut napkins and blow right through the red light because you weren’t paying attention.  Thinking to yourself, “that was a close one.”  Drop-offs are done and you’re speeding to catch the train and your boss shoots you a text asking to grab coffee and bagels for the big merger meeting you have this morning.  And of course you don’t want to be rude, you text back.

There are so many ways we get distracted driving in today’s culture.  I don’t want to age myself but when I got my license, cells phones were only for the mega rich.  Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat – well those weren’t around.  We feel obligated to text back to people because we don’t want to be rude.  A quick look at social media while I sit at the red light – why not?  Reply to an email – sure.  So many accidents, and sadly deaths can be prevented with simple ways to become less distracted behind the wheel.  Here are a few tips from to make you a safer driver.

Put the phone away. Talking on the phone while driving is not safe, even if you have a hands-free setup with a headset or a device you can talk right into like a speakerphone.  Driving and using the cell phone takes your mind off the road, and that increases your risk of a crash, not that you shouldn’t have a cell phone in your car — just don’t use it while driving.  If you must be accessible to others, keep the phone on but put it away in your purse or glove box so you’re not tempted to use it. If you don’t have a Bluetooth car and the phone rings, you can pull over and return the call.

Orchestrate entertainment ahead of time. Load the CD or DVD player before you hit the road, even if you don’t plan on playing anything immediately. iPod plug-ins, which come in many new cars or can be bought with adapters from catalogs, are a fantastic option because there’s no need to fiddle with disks and they can be uploaded with books from the computer, which are great for long rides.  Keep car-friendly fun stuffed animals and other soft items that aren’t choking hazards at arm’s reach in the backseat console or in a pouch that hangs from the back of the front seat.  Also keep all heavy toys — as well as any other hard objects — properly secured, ideally in the back with a cargo cover or cargo net. Pets, a major source of distraction on the road, should be restrained in the back or in a carrier.

Lay down the ground rules. Right from the start, children need to learn what behaviors are not appropriate for the car.  Tell them that there is no screaming because that makes it dangerous for Mommy to drive.  And when that fever-pitched crying strikes, breathe deeply, turn up the radio, and wait for a red light to pick lovey up off the floor or to make sure there’s nothing truly terrible going on.  Lastly, don’t be afraid of bribery.  If a promised game of Candy Land or the chance to choose what’s for lunch encourages a preschooler to stay in line or even entertain the baby, go for it.

These are just a few easy tips can help you and your family get from point A to point B safely.


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