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Be aware of distracted driving habits

The National Safety Council has designated April as Distracted Driving Awareness Month. While it is good to be aware of the toll taken by distracted drivers, it is also important to be aware of the role each of us plays in preventing these accidents. Distracted driving is a growing problem. The nation's driving habits are, if anything, getting worse even as the laws grow tougher.

The obvious culprit

Distracted driving was likely invented moments after the first car got underway. Some distractions, like eating, drinking, changing the radio station and dealing with the kids in the backseat have been around for decades. The rapid rise in distracted driving crashes isn't due to these distractions. It is due to the rising use of smartphones.

The research

The software company TrueMotion reports that more than 90 percent of drivers are using their cell phones behind the wheel, including 71 percent who text while driving. Texting bans are in place in states all across the country. The effectiveness of these bans is clearly in question.

Human nature

Perhaps the biggest obstacle to addressing this problem is human nature. Surveys show that most drivers are aware that distracted driving is dangerous. They persist in succumbing to distraction for several reasons.

First, there is a growing belief that smartphone use is addictive. Even people who know they shouldn't use their phones while driving are unable to resist the temptation. Second, many people cling to the belief that they are particularly able to multi-task, making distraction a non-issue. Studies have repeatedly demonstrated that the human brain cannot multi-task. You are either driving safely, or using the phone, not both. Still, people regularly overestimate their abilities and consider distracted driving a problem for others.

Self-awareness is vital. If you find yourself driving with one hand on the wheel and the other clutching a phone, you should consider making changes. Distraction is a problem for everyone. We all must make changes to correct it.

Source: Claims Journal, "Distracted Driving Awareness Month Highlights Changes Needed to Modify Habits," 2 April 2018

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