Distracted driving is a rampant problem in the U.S., and the problem only increases with the development of new technology. Approximately 421,000 drivers were injured in accidents due to distracted driving in 2012, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation. An additional 3,328 drivers were killed by distracted drivers that same year.
Cell phone use, particularly texting while driving, is the most dangerous form of distracted driving. But a variety of activities constitute distracted driving and pose a threat to other drivers on the road.
Adjusting the radio is one of the most common forms of distracted driving. At any given time, more than 600,000 drivers are manipulating electronic devices, like radios, while driving, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Driving distractions are characterized in three categories: visual, which takes your eyes off the road, cognitive, which takes your mind off the road, and manual, which takes your hands off the steering wheel—listening to the radio or adjusting the station covers all three categories of distractions.
One danger of changing the radio while driving is the manual distraction. By taking one hand off the wheel, you reduce your reaction time and increase the risk of an accident.
Radio programs can also pose a cognitive distraction. When listening to talk radio, the weather, or other programming that requires a certain level of your attention, your mind is focused on the radio and is distracted from the task of driving.
In addition, auditory distractions, like radios, DVD players, or ringing cell phones, make it more difficult to hear important sounds both within the vehicle and on the road. Just keeping the radio at a lower volume will help you pay attention and keep your eyes on the road.
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Avoid distracted driving by lowering the volume of the radio when you get into the vehicle. Additionally, take advantage of the programmable buttons (if your vehicle has them) so you can minimize the amount of time spent searching for a certain radio program. If your vehicle does not have programmable radio buttons, use the “Seek” function instead of the tuning knob to decrease the amount of time you spend with your hand off the wheel.
Other distractions while driving include:
- Sending emails
- Changing out a CD or adjusting an MP3 player
- Reading (including maps)
- Using a navigation system
- Watching a video
- Eating or drinking
- Talking to other passengers
The leading cause of death for 15-20 year olds is Car Accidents, which make up one-third of all deaths in this age group. Teenagers are especially susceptible to distraction from cell phone use and adjusting music devices while driving.
To avoid distracted driving, be sure to only drive when well-rested, avoid tailgating, allow plenty of time to reach your destination, pre-program your radio, and never text or send emails while driving.