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Published on August 17, 2011

Distracted Driving: Facts and Tips

The statistics don’t lie: 17 percent of trauma injuries involve automobile accidents and 20 percent of these are due to distracted driving.

While most people would agree that something has to be done to remedy the issue of distracted driving, agreeing on a solution has proven more difficult. The problem, say many experts, is that eliminating distracted driving altogether will require as much of a change in our attitude as a change in our habits.

Secondary activities, such as text messaging, talking on a cell phone, styling hair, writing a grocery list, or putting in contact lenses while driving have become an accepted part of our culture. As innocent as many of these things may seem, the fact is any activity not related to the act of operating the vehicle while driving can pose a potentially deadly danger to the driver, their family and other people.

“Obviously, texting is the most distracting activity one can be doing. However, even having a friend in the back seat cracking jokes can be distracting,” says Riad Cachecho, M.D., medical director of the Crozer Regional Trauma Center. Other potentially dangerous activities include changing the radio station, eating, rummaging in a bag, putting on makeup, writing or even getting lost in thought.

The fact is that many injuries can be avoided by simply avoiding distracted driving. “In trauma we don’t use the term ‘car accidents,’ we use the term ‘crash’ because by definition an accident is something you cannot prevent,” Cachecho says. “But if you avoid icy roads, if you don’t drink and drive, if you don’t do anything else while you drive you can prevent these situations from happening.”

Here are some helpful tips to stay alert while on the road:

*Avoid driving when you are fatigued, angry or upset.

* If you are on a long road trip divide driving time with other drivers in the car.

* Limit passenger interaction.

* Always keep both hands on the wheel.

* Unless it’s an emergency, don’t use your cell phone to text or chat and if possible, when necessary, pull over to the side of the road.

In addition, check out this video about safe driving, or take this interactive quiz about driving safety.

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