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Are you in Good Hands?


Winter’s poor driving conditions may be over, but summer is prime time for accidents: July and August have the most highway crash fatalities of any months, with the Fourth of July period leading the spike, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Vacation traffic congestion, heat-related tire blowouts and road construction contribute to the danger. Plus, there are more teens on the road during the summer, which means more inexperienced—and possibly more distracted—drivers.

But it’s not only teens preoccupied with cell phones and other distractions. In a recent study, researchers from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) observed nearly 17,000 drivers at different times of day and in various driving conditions and found that nearly a quarter of them were engaged in another behavior in addition to driving. The most common distracted driving behaviors were holding or talking on a cell phone,

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followed by eating or drinking. While both of these activities occurred most often when drivers were stopped at red lights, the prevalence while driving on straight roads was close behind. So it’s a good idea for drivers to be extra cautious in those circumstances.

Did You Know?

24.1% of drivers in a recent study were observed doing something else in addition to driving while on straight roads.

For your own safety, as well as the safety of others, it’s important to take steps to minimize distractions while you’re in the driver’s seat. Here are some tips.

Plan Your Route Beforehand Plot your route before you go, and pull off the road if you need to review directions along the way. If you’re using a GPS, keep it in a place that won’t require you to take your eyes off the road. If you’re road tripping with a passenger, agree to switch driving shifts. That way you can take turns napping, eating and navigating.

Turn Off Your Phone If you’re planning an unusually long trip, consider recording a message telling callers that you’ll return their calls when you’re off the road. If you’re expecting an important call or text, give your phone to a passenger and let him or her handle it for you. (If you need to talk or check messages, pull over.) Don’t even think about texting and driving! One study found that in fatal crashes involving 15- to 19-year-old drivers involving distractions, 21% were using cell phones.

Limit Passengers—Including Pets A bunch of friends in the car can be a dangerous distraction. It’s safer to split into more than one vehicle. If you have a teenager, remember that most states’ graduated driver licensing laws don’t allow teens to drive without a supervising adult with other teenage passengers during their first months of driving solo. Pets can also be a hazard, so secure them during your trip (and not in the driver’s lap).

Set Your Tunes Before You Drive If you listen to music through a mobile device or MP3, set it up before you drive, or let your radio’s preset buttons play DJ for you.

Stay Organized Store your belongings so they don’t fall or roll onto the floor mats, where you might be tempted to pick them up. And try not to carry distracting items with you into the front seat.

Know When to Hush Up In hazardous driving conditions (like thunderstorms), it’s wise to put conversation with your passengers on pause; you can always pick up where you left off. Under any conditions, avoid stressful or emotionally charged conversations while driving. Save those talks for later.