Guide to Stopping Distracted Driving

Distracted driving is a dangerous national epidemic. It's responsible for thousands of lives lost on the road and nearly half a million fatalities. In this infographic, you can see just how deadly distracted driving can be -- and learn how you can take action to stop it today.

Want more? Take a look at these statistics that illustrate just how dangerous and harmful distracted driving can be:

The worst part about distracted driving: it's a danger that's entirely preventable.

Types of Distracted Driving

Most people think of texting or talking on the phone as distracted driving. While those are major problems behind the wheel, they're certainly not the only ones. Distracted driving takes on many forms, and can be anything that takes your eyes, hands, or attention off of the road, either one at a time or all at once. Talking with passengers, eating, grooming, and more can be dangerous as well. Are you doing any of these distracting actions while driving?

  • Texting: One of the worst driving distractions, texting requires your eyes, hands, and attention.
  • GPS and maps: Like texting, using GPS or reading a map for directions will take your hands, eyes, and thoughts away from driving.
  • Talking on the phone: Even if you're using a hands free device, talking on the phone takes your mind off of the road.
  • Reading or watching a video: Even if you're sitting in stand still traffic, it's never a good idea to read or watch a video, as these completely distract you from the task at hand.
  • Adjusting your radio or music: Changing radio stations may distract you a bit, but choosing a song on your iPod or setting up a playlist can be just as bad as texting.
  • Daydreaming: It's easy to let your mind wander while driving, especially on long trips. Resist the temptation and stay focused on the road.
  • Caring for children or pets: Children or pets may ask for food, have complaints, or distract you with other needs. Encourage them to wait to make requests until you're parked or at a stop light.
  • Talking: Even talking with passengers can be a distraction, especially if you tend to be animated or you're engaging in an intense conversation.
  • Searching for items: Keep your car organized so that you won't have a need to root around for items while you're driving. Keep toll change in the console and sunglasses in your glove box.
  • Grooming: Shaving, putting on makeup, or brushing your hair is just as bad as texting. It requires your eyes, hands, and attention, and should be avoided while driving.
  • Eating: One of the most common forms of distracted driving, eating can be very dangerous, especially if you're consuming messy food. Stick to easy snacks, or better yet, don't eat in your car at all.
  • Smoking: Smoking is already dangerous, but it's especially dangerous if you're driving. Loose embers can cause you to panic, and even just flicking spent ash out the window can be distracting behind the wheel.

How You Can Stop Distracted Driving

  • Commit to driving: When you get behind the wheel, focus fully on the task at hand and avoiding distractions. Never attempt to multitask. Keep your eyes on the road and hands on the wheel.
  • Pull over if you need to complete a task: Do not attempt to anything while driving other than driving. If you need to take on a task, pull over before you do so.
  • Store or silence your cell phone: Put your cell phone in the glove box or back seat so that you won't be tempted to glance over and check when you hear a text, email, or phone call come in. If you don't want to put it out of reach, at least turn off the sound so that you won't be distracted by any beeps and chimes.
  • Ask passengers for help: If you need to update directions on your GPS, send a text, find a CD, or take care of other tasks while driving, ask your passenger to do it instead of trying to do it while you're behind the wheel.
  • Show children and pets that you won't respond to distractions: Children or pets may need your help or attention while you're driving. Train children to understand that you can't help while you're behind the wheel, and pull over if there's a task you need to do for them. They should also be carefully secured before you start driving so that you don't need to adjust seat belts while you're on the road.
  • Save intense discussions for later: Avoid having involved or animated discussions while driving. Encourage passengers to remind you to talk about it later when you're not driving.
  • Adjust your vehicle before pulling out: Adjust your seats, mirrors, head rest, and seat belt before you leave your driveway or parking spot.
  • Finish grooming at home or when you're parked: Take care of shaving, makeup, and other grooming tasks before you leave the house. If you must do them in the car, wait until you're parked at your destination to perform these tasks.
  • Plan your route before you start moving: Avoid checking your GPS en route by simply setting it before you head out.
  • Set your music up before departure: Tune in to your favorite radio station, find your audio book or podcast on your phone, or set up your playlist before you hit the gas pedal.
  • Eat before you leave: Avoid messy foods that can cause problems on the road, instead opting for snacks that do not require your attention. Better yet, avoid eating in the car entirely.
  • Don't smoke while driving: Smoking while driving can be a major distraction, particularly if you lose part of your cigarette while moving. Quit smoking while you're behind the wheel, and don't allow passengers to smoke, either.
  • Warn others when you'll be on the road: Take off some of the pressure to respond to calls and texts by letting your boss, colleagues, and loved ones know that you'll be driving and unable to respond. It's also a good idea to check in before you leave.
  • Don't bother others while they're driving: If you know your spouse or friend is commuting home, don't call or text them. Simply wait until you know they're home to get in touch.
  • Create a safe driving plan for your family: Model safe driving behavior and require that teen drivers follow rules to avoid distracted driving as well.
  • Be a safe passenger: As a passenger, encourage distraction-free drivers. You wouldn't get in a car with a drunk driver, so don't get in a car with a distracted driver, either. You can help by offering to be a designated device handler, replying to texts, looking up directions, and changing radio stations.