However, when it comes to staying out of the statistics column, the responsibility rests on you. Ask yourself truthfully, "Am I a good driver?" Most of us would answer, "Yes, I'm a great driver." But are we? The truth is most of us, perhaps without thinking about it, engage in dangerous activities while driving that make us anything but great, safe drivers.
Ask yourself these questions:
• Do I text, dial a cellphone or engage in a thoughtful conversation with someone in the vehicle?
• Do I play with the radio or CD player while driving?
• Do I fish around in the glove compartment looking for something?
• Do I comb my hair or check or apply makeup?
• Do I engage in "dashboard dining" -- trying to eat and drink while going down the road?
• Do I light a cigarette or fumble for a dropped lighter?
• Do I read maps or enter locations into my GPS while driving?
• Do I discipline restless children in the car or feed them snacks?
• Do I stare in amazement at how bad others are driving and then get upset or frustrated and drive aggressively?

Unfortunately, most of us can answer "yes" to at least a few of these questions. According to www.smartmotorst.com, there are four factors that contribute to accidents:
1. Equipment failure
2. Roadway design
3. Poor vehicle maintenance
4. Driver behavior
More than 95 percent of motor vehicle accidents involve some degree of driver behavior combined with one of the other three factors. When the facts are truthfully presented, however, driver behavior is usually the primary cause. Many accidents are caused by driving distracted, excessive speed or aggressive driver behavior. So what can each of us do to stay safe?
• Make sure you use cellphones safely. The safest thing is to make your calls before you set out. If you receive a phone call while you are driving, let the caller leave a message and then pull over and return the call. Drivers who use hand-held devices are four times as likely to get into crashes serious enough to injure themselves, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
• Set a good example. Consider how your children might be observing your unsafe habits and assume your actions are something normal that everyone does. If you don't want your child talking on a cellphone while driving, don't let them see you do it.
• Be aware that using a hands-free device can still distract you. In fact, a study done by the University of Utah found using a cellphone while driving, whether it's hand-held or hands-free, delays a driver's reactions as much as having a blood alcohol concentration at the legal limit of .08 percent.
• Stop before checking maps and addresses, looking at paperwork or dealing with similar distractions.
• Plan and map out your trip before you leave home.
• Don't allow arguments or stressful conversations with passengers to divert driver attention from the road.
• We know better than to drive while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, but fatigue, stress and strong emotions such as anger can also impair the ability to drive safely.

So, how do you rate yourself now? Are you as great a driver as you first thought, or are there some areas where you need to improve? The good news is if you're reading this article, there's still time to change your driving habits and stay out of the statistics column. The responsibility is yours.

Page last updated Tue January 3rd, 2012 at 00:00