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How to reduce your risk of driving distracted

The prevalence of technology has ensured that many things are competing for people's attention at any given moment. That includes when people are driving, which has contributed to a dangerous phenomenon known as distracted driving.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that there were nearly 36,000 fatal crashes involving distracted drivers in 2020. Such numbers are sobering, but it's worth nothing that handheld cellphone usage by drivers declined significantly across all age groups between 2012 and 2021. NHTSA data indicates such usage declined from 5.9 percent in 2012 to 3.7 percent by 2021 among drivers between the ages of 16 and 24. Among drivers between the ages of 25 and 69, driver handheld cellphone usage dropped from 5.4 percent in 2012 to 2.5 percent by 2021.

But the work isn't done, as the NHTSA notes that a significant uptick of driver handheld cellphone usage among drivers between the ages of 16 and 24 was reported between 2020 (2.8 percent) and 2021 (3.7 percent). With so much to gain from eliminating distracted driving, drivers of all ages can consider these strategies to avoid distractions while behind the wheel.

· Turn off notifications. According to the app industry resource BusinessofApps, the average smartphone user in the United States receives 46 app push notifications each day. Additional sources estimate that figure could be closer to 80 push notifications per day. There's no denying the allure of such notifications, so drivers who find them too hard to resist can turn all notifications off prior to getting behind the wheel. This is quickly and easily accomplished through the settings function on a smartphone.

· Avoid making calls. Hands-free capabilities may make it easier to keep both hands on the wheel, but they don't ensure drivers' minds will stay on the road. Hands-free phone calls and voice-activated messaging apps take drivers' minds off the road. When behind the wheel, resolve to stick to driving and driving alone by avoiding making phone calls or receiving and sending messages.

· Stay focused at stoplights. Red lights present another tempting chance to peruse text messages, emails and push notifications. But drivers can easily be drawn into conversations that continue long after a red light has turned to green. So it's best to maintain your focus at stoplights by waiting patiently for the light to turn and avoiding your phone entirely.

· Utilize airplane mode if necessary. If none of the above recommendations are working, drivers can always switch their phones to airplane mode when driving. Doing so effectively blocks all incoming messages and distractions from being received by the phone until airplane mode is then turned off.

All accidents involving distracted driving incidents are preventable. Drivers can take simple and more extensive measures to reduce their vulnerability to distractions while behind the wheel.

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