6 tips to help keep your drive distraction-free

(BPT) – As you drive down the street, the threat of potential distractions is everywhere. Federal research shows that distracted driving is a factor in one out of every six crashes, and accounts for 5,000 automobile crash-related fatalities each year.

While teens are commonly associated with distracted-driving issues — particularly texting — the issue affects drivers of all ages. To help reduce distracted driving crash-related injuries, and loss of life, the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons and the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers (Auto Alliance) offer these tips to help drivers keep their eyes on the road and hands on the wheel.

* Gear up before you go out. Whether it’s your sunglasses, your Bluetooth(R) earpiece or your favorite hat, putting accessories on before starting your car allows you to keep your hands on the wheel, and not your wardrobe while driving.

* Stop for a bite. A quick bite for lunch should be enjoyed in a restaurant, or your non-moving vehicle, instead of on the go while you’re driving. This allows you to take a break, enjoy your food and not worry about spilling beverages on yourself.

* Don’t be afraid to pull over. If another matter begs your attention — such as settling a disagreement between your children — pull the car over to handle the situation properly rather than trying to attend to it while you are driving.

* Have a plan in place. Sometimes this is easier said than done. However, if you are traveling somewhere for the first time, you should understand your route before starting the drive. Program your GPS, or share printed directions with your navigator before you depart.

* Call them back. Cell phone usage is one of the leading causes of distracted driving-related crashes and not all of them are related solely to texting. If your phone rings while you’re in the car and you do not have a hands-free headset already on, let the caller go to voicemail. You can always call them back when you arrive at your destination or your next stop.

* If you don’t need it, store it. Sporting equipment, kids’ toys or groceries, your car is the transport home for many things and sometimes those items can jostle back and forth while you’re driving — particularly on those sharp turns. And when things start moving, your natural reaction is to take your eyes off the road and reach for them. Instead, secure items in the trunk or in another storage compartment before the drive.

Keeping your eyes on the road and your hands on the wheel is one of the most important things you do every single day you choose to drive so be sure to apply the tips above and make driving your No. 1 priority. Your loved ones and those you share the road with will thank you for it. For even more helpful tips and strategies to minimize driving distractions, visit www.decidetodrive.org.

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