Learn how to defend against distracted driving

It's Distracted Driving Awareness Month -- so let's talk about what's going on in our country when it comes to traffic accidents and fatalities.

First, auto accident-related fatalities rose in 2015, and early estimates for 2016, indicate that the trend will continue -- which is disheartening because they'd been on a general decline since 2007.

Second, distracted driving has gotten worse -- and it now scares or concerns people more than even drunk driving.

So, how do you defend yourself against distracted driving?

-- Drive defensively.

You've probably heard that before, but it takes on new meaning when it comes to distracted driving. Researchers have identified five distinct processes drivers need to use quickly and automatically to determine threats on the road: scanning for possible threats, predicting likely threats, identifying current threats, deciding how to react and then executing the actual response.

There's no room in there for distracted driving on your part. Defense driving, these days, means making sure that you aren't part of the growing problems -- do turn off the cellphone while you are driving, resist the impulse to check Facebook when you're stopped at the light and put the GPS on voice mode.

-- Assume that someone else on the road is distracted.

It's a safe bet that not everyone on the road with you is going to follow the same advice. Be on the lookout not only for other drivers who are have animated conversations through the Bluetooth devices in their ears but also for the college student absorbed in his or her phone while crossing the street.

-- Have a checklist ready before you get started.

Start your road trip -- whether it's to the grocery store or the office commute -- with a checklist. Fix the radio, adjust the mirrors, set up the GPS if you need it, adjust the air conditioning or heater and turn the sound off your phone and dump it in your glove box so you won't even be tempted. Eat before you go or pull over to eat somewhere.

If you do everything you can to avoid an accident with a distracted driver but end up in one anyhow, consider talking to an attorney for advice. You may be able to file a lawsuit for compensation for your injuries.

Source: The Huffington Post, "Rethinking Defensive Driving in Light of Distracted Driving," Joel Feldman, accessed April 07, 2017

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