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Driver inattention is the No. 1 cause of crashes

A man hands car keys to a teenage boy in the driver's seat of a car.

Do you sometimes text while driving? This may give you pause: Driver inattention—not speeding or driving drunk—is the No. 1 cause of motor vehicle crashes nationwide.

Each day in the U.S., nine people are killed and more than 1,000 people are injured in crashes involving distracted drivers, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Eyes off the road

When you send or read a text message, you take your eyes off the road for about five seconds, CDC warns. That's long enough to cover the length of a football field if you're driving 55 mph.

Anything that diverts your attention from driving is risky and could cause a deadly crash, including:

  • Using a cellphone to dial, check social media or take pictures.
  • Eating, drinking or applying makeup while driving.
  • Looking at a GPS map.
  • Adjusting the temperature, car windows or mirrors.
  • Driving when you're upset or after a heated argument.

Stay focused

Don't gamble with your life—or the lives of others—while driving. Minimize distractions with these four tips from CDC, the National Safety Council and other experts:

1. Take precautions before driving. Here's a checklist:

  • Find the correct route and address on your GPS.
  • Finish up any food or drink you're consuming.
  • Select the music you'll listen to, set the car temperature, and adjust the mirrors and windows.
  • Make sure you're in a reasonable mood.

2. Text responsibly. If you need to send a message, pull over and park your car in a safe location. That's the only appropriate time to send or read a text in the car. Alternatively, you might ask a passenger to be your "designated texter." Give them a green light to respond to your calls or messages.

3. Don't use your phone at red lights. It may seem safe. But an AAA study showed drivers are distracted for nearly 30 seconds after sending a voice text.

4. Take away temptation. If it's a struggle not to use your cellphone, put it somewhere that's inaccessible—such as the car's trunk or glove box—until you arrive at your destination.

Attention, passengers and parents!

Whenever you're a passenger, be sure to speak up if the driver is texting—or otherwise not focused. Ask them to stop the distraction and focus on traffic.

And moms and dads: Be good role models. Don't drive distracted—kids often copy what they see. And drivers under 20 have the highest rate of distraction-related fatal crashes.

That's why if you're the parent of a teen or young adult, you may want to ask your son or daughter to commit to this pledge to fight distracted driving—and do the same yourself.

reviewed 8/29/2019

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