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Distracted 600pxApril is Distracted Driving Awareness Month.

MassDOT and MAPFRE Insurance join the National Safety Council in getting the word out to drivers to put away all distractions before you get behind the wheel. Staying focused on the road can mean the difference between arriving to your destination safely and not arriving at all.

Many drivers do not realize that distracted driving goes beyond the dangers of making a call or texting while driving. Distracted driving is any activity that diverts a person’s attention away from the primary task of driving. These activities include:

  • Eating or drinking
  • Talking to passengers
  • Grooming
  • Adjusting the radio
  • Texting
  • Using a smart phone to surf the web or make a call

If a driver engages in any one of these activities while driving, they are endangering their own lives and the lives of their passengers, fellow motorists and bystanders, like pedestrians and bicyclists with whom they share the road.

Research has proven that multi-tasking by listening or talking on the phone while driving, decreases activity in the area of the brain that processes moving images by up to one third. In fact, according to the National Safety Council, drivers looking out the windshield can miss seeing up to 50% of what’s around them when talking on any kind of a cell phone. Despite these terrifying statistics, at any moment 7% of drivers are using cell phones while driving.

On September 30, 2010, Massachusetts legislators took action to curb the distracted driving epidemic by putting into effect the Safe Driving Law. This law bans sending, typing or reading electronic messages to or from handheld devices while operating a motor vehicle. The law also bans use of all handheld electronic devices by junior operators while behind the wheel. Violation of these regulations can result in fines up to $500 and suspension of your license.

To help you stay focused and avoid distractions, MassDOT and MAPFRE Insurance encourage you to follow these best practices:

  • Turn off your phone before you get behind the wheel.
  • Store loose gear, possessions and other distractions that could roll around in the car, so you do not feel tempted to reach for them on the floor or the seat.
  • Set essential controls before you back out of your parking spot:
    • Queue up the playlist you want to hear
    • Set climate controls to a comfortable level
    • Program any destinations into your GPS
  • Pull over to a safe area, like a Rest Area or Service Plaza, if you need to make a call or send a text while traveling. Once parked, you can safely use your phone.[2]
  • Remind others to follow the same safety practices and, if you realize that someone is talking or texting with you while driving, insist on ending the conversation until they’ve arrived at their destination safely.

Safety must come first on the road. Collectively, it is our responsibility to stay focused and avoid distractions while behind the wheel.

Written By Patrick McDonald, CPCU, AIM, AIS, Executive Vice President – Business & Clients, MAPFRE  Insurance

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