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National Safety Month: Staying Safe Behind the Wheel

For the most part, we’re a car-driven nation. So much of our daily routine involves transportation of some sort, but these days, we pay less and less attention to the road and shift our focus to other distractions.

Some of the most dangerous behind-the-wheel behaviors include texting, drowsy driving, driving under the influence, distracted driving and aggressive driving.

Driving Fatigue. Driving fatigue is prevalent on long stretches of highway, especially at night. If you feel yourself veering to the right or left side of the lane, yawning excessively or having difficulty keeping your eyes open, pull over.

  • Don’t’ drive if you are not well rested. Most people need seven to eight hours of rest to be at their optimal alertness.

Impaired Driving. Driving while impaired – whether it’s due to medications, alcohol, or a medical condition – is highly dangerous.

  • If you are going out for drinks, designate a driver before heading out for the evening. Pay attention to your friends as well and don’t let them get behind the wheel if you believe them to be impaired. Keep the number of a local cab service in your phone contacts for when needed.
  • Don’t drive after taking medications that can cause drowsiness. If you start a new medication that has fatigue or drowsiness as a symptom, do not operate a motor vehicle until you know how it affects you.
  • If you have symptoms of a sleep disorder, seek medical assistance to discuss your options for operating a vehicle.

Distracted Driving. Any activity that takes your full attention away from driving can be considered distracted driving. This includes:

  • Using a mobile device (phone, tablet, GPS, music device, etc.)
  • Eating, drinking or smoking
  • Talking with passengers
  • Personal grooming such as shaving or applying makeup
  • Adjusting the car radio
  • Reaching to the back seat to engage with children or to reach for something

The most common distraction these days is texting. According to the CDC, at 55 mph, the average text takes your eyes off the road long enough to cover a football field. Put your phone in driving mode to avoid receiving calls and texts or place it in your back seat or trunk to avoid temptations.

If you are faced with a distraction while on the road, find a safe place to pull over and turn on your hazard lights before you deal with it.

Aggressive Driving. Road rage, traffic accidents and high-speed crashes are all results of aggressive and reckless driving. Aggressive behaviors include:

  • Following another car too closely
  • Erratic lane changes or not using your signal to indicate a lane change
  • Improper passing
  • Failure to yield the right of way
  • Driving too fast for conditions
  • Failure to obey traffic signs and signals or traffic laws

Reduce your risk of driving aggressively by avoiding getting behind the wheel when angry or upset, allowing plenty of time to reach your destination and taking note of traffic conditions before leaving to avoid frustration.

For more information on staying safe on the road, visit the websites of the Centers for Disease Control, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration or the National Safety Council.

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