April is Distracted Driver Awareness Month

Getting behind the wheel for the first time is one of the most thrilling benefits of growing up. However, there is quite a bit more to obtaining a license than just getting behind the wheel. The reason for driver’s education, behind the wheel training, and the final driver’s exam, is to prepare you for a safe future on the road. Traffic laws are set in place to help avoid mishaps. Some situations cannot be prevented due to weather conditions or an unavoidable collision, but knowing the laws and becoming a safe driver will aid in your safety on the road. When you get your license and are behind the wheel remember that driving is a privilege not a right.

Vehicles have become a very important part of our lives. With so many drivers on the road today, it is very important to stay alert and pay attention to what you have learned in your training or through your experience. Avoid reckless driving by consistently maintaining a reasonable speed, and always be courteous to your fellow drivers. Younger drivers are at a greater risk for accidents due to distractions because they have not yet experienced the many hazardous situations that occur on the roads without warning. Distracted Driving is not limited to younger drivers. There are many drivers who travel to work daily and have routines which are considerably unsafe (reading road maps, eating or drinking, attending to children, use of cell phones, putting on makeup, etc.). This activity increases the potential for accidents. If you take your eyes off the road even for a split second, you could put yourself or others in danger.

Driving in severe weather or during rush hour traffic is already the worst environment for potential accidents. You add to the danger when your mind wanders, you take your eyes off the road reaching for something, or you distract other drivers with reckless driving. For this reason, in Minnesota it is illegal to text or send emails while you are driving, stuck in traffic, or at a stop light. Do your part to make the road a safe and friendly place.

Tips for Drivers:

  • Avoid use of cell phones.
  • Do not search for CDs or radio stations while the vehicle is moving,
  • Map out your route prior to putting your vehicle in drive, and pull over to study a map.
  • If you have food or drink make sure the drink is covered and the food is not something messy.
  • Children need attention, but it is very unsafe to tend to them while driving.
  • Keep your eyes on the road at all times

  Driving Etiquette:

  • Always be prepared to stop at crosswalks or intersections
  • Pass only in passing lane, avoid passing too closely or without signal
  • Yield to drivers who have the right of way
  • Make room for other drivers merging
  • Adhere to speed limits
  • Avoid cell phone use
  • Never tailgate, always allow a reasonable stopping distance

Keep in mind that each year in Minnesota distracted driving is accountable for at least one in four crashes which have resulted in at least 50 deaths and more than 300 serious injuries. Laws have been implemented to help reduce these statistics, but according to a survey from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, over 90 percent of drivers recognized the danger from cell phone distractions and found it “unacceptable” that drivers text or send e-mail while driving. Nevertheless, 35% of these same people admitted to having read or sent a text message or e-mail while driving in the previous month. Similarly, two-thirds of the survey respondents admitted to talking on a cell phone, even though 88 percent found it a threat to safety.

Defensive Driving courses are taught to help drivers maintain valuable skills. Some of these types of classes in Minnesota are free, and could also lower your insurance rates. These classes are designed to help you brush up on your driving skills and become familiar with current laws.