As I hopped into my car after class, I checked my phone and realized I'd missed several calls. I decided to return them immediately because I knew once I arrived home, I wouldn't have time. I popped in my favorite CD, dialed the number to return a call and headed home.

I was traveling 70 mph in the fast lane and talking on the phone when I crested a hill on the interstate. Suddenly, the car in front of me swerved to the right to avoid a stopped vehicle in our lane. Before I could react, I sideswiped the stopped car. Fortunately, I missed the people standing beside the car trying to change a flat. However, I lost control and slammed into a concrete barrier. Everything happened in a matter of seconds. When I finally stopped, the impact of the crash and my air bag deploying managed to bust my lip, fracture my wrist and demolish my car. I looked around inside the car thinking, "Oh, where is my phone?" Now, however, I wasn't concerned about returning calls; I needed to call for help.

We have all juggled in-car distractions. Because of that, we can benefit from developing safer, less distracted driving habits. Driving is a task that needs our undivided attention. Here are some driving distractions we all may be able to relate to:

Physical Driving Distractions
• Eating or drinking
• Cellphones
• Passengers such as small children
• Putting on makeup or shaving
• Adjusting a radio, MP3 player or inserting CDs
• Other cellphone-related operations such as text messaging and voicemail

Mental Driving Distractions
• Fatigue
• Aggression
• In-depth conversations with passengers in the car
• Listening to audio books
• Preoccupation with personal or work-related problems

Safety Tips
• Cellphones -- Turn off or use only when the vehicle is safely stopped.
• Eating and drinking -- Avoid eating while on the road. Only eat when your vehicle is safely stopped.
• Radio, MP3 player and CDs -- Select one station and set the volume level. Preselect CDs for the trip.
• Fatigue and drowsiness -- Get eight hours of sleep each night. If fatigued on the road, pull over where it is safe and take a nap.
• Passengers -- Avoid potentially emotional conversations. Properly restrain children.
• Reading and writing -- Avoid flipping though the map while driving. Only read or write when the vehicle is safely stopped. Review driving directions ahead of time. If needed, make a large-print copy to tape to the dashboard.
• Makeup or grooming -- Do these things at home or only when the vehicle is safely stopped.
• Aggression -- Be a courteous driver. Allow plenty of time for commutes so a tight schedule doesn't lead to a short fuse.
• In-car electronic systems -- Use only when the vehicle is stopped.

For additional useful safety tips concerning distracted driving, visit www.drivingtips.org/distracted-driving.html.

FYI

According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, motorists are prohibited from talking on a hand-held cellphone while driving in California, Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Washington and West Virginia, as well as the District of Columbia. In addition, texting while driving is banned in 38 states and the District of Columbia. To view the cellphone and texting laws for your state, visit the IIHS website at http://www.iihs.org/laws/cellphonelaws.aspx.

Page last updated Thu June 28th, 2012 at 00:00