Table of Contents

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Attitude is Everything!

Human beings are all blessed with unique personalities that help to dictate their actions in life. Behaviors are a function of decision-making, and these are decisions that have consequences. Bad decisions can often have devastating results. Driving a motor vehicle is neither a game nor a recreational activity; it is an action that can affect many lives if done incorrectly or without the proper attitude. Don't get in your vehicle unless you are prepared to drive - and prepared to drive safely!

Attitude and Safety

Stress, emotions and fatigue will always affect your ability to drive. Therefore you need to possess an attitude that will allow you to operate a motor vehicle safely. This means, among other things, that you should not allow external circumstances to distract you from the driving task. For example, environmental factors will change your driving habits but should not keep you from being a safe driver. You also need a positive attitude toward law enforcement because that can only benefit you.

Driving is a privilege that the State extended to you because you met prescribed criteria. Therefore there is no right to drive, and as a license holder, you are merely exercising a privilege granted to you. You should make every attempt to stay current with changes to Nevada driving laws, new construction, potential road hazards, etc., and always try to keep a positive attitude when behind the wheel.

"Like a Loaded Gun"

An image of someone holding a gun

A loaded gun and a motor vehicle have a lot in common.

A motor vehicle weighs many thousands of pounds, making it a dangerous object. If driven carelessly, it can lead to tragedy. People are lectured about gun safety and made aware of the associated dangers. But we rarely get the same lecture with a motor vehicle, which is far more dangerous than a gun. We may only see it as a simple necessity that takes us where we need. Abuse of a loaded gun often results in a scary reminder regarding gun safety without injury to anyone. However, abuse of a vehicle will undoubtedly result in damage or injury at some point. A person who is drunk will most probably not be able to aim a gun but will have little trouble starting a motor vehicle. This bears repeating: Abuse of a vehicle will almost always lead to harmful results. Operating a motor vehicle is a tremendous responsibility, so you must consider it the same as a dangerous weapon.

Driving Behavior

An image of a driver

A responsible driver knows how to be safe.

Being safe on the roadway is more than simply obeying laws or being polite. The responsible driver acts in ways that are necessary to be safe on the road. This includes being aware of factors that can affect the ability to drive or to focus on the road, such as emotions, fatigue and stress. Your main objectives while driving should be to prevent collisions and to drive as safely as possible. A concern for others and general road awareness are also vital. The following elements are vital to safe driving:

General Knowledge - A basic knowledge of safe driving techniques and penalties for violating traffic laws can help you to make the right choices to be a safer driver. Benefits derived from periodic participation in traffic safety programs should not be forgotten, as yearly reminders of techniques to be followed are important. Penalties for negligent driving can range from traffic tickets to license suspensions, not to mention fatal traffic collisions.

An image of a clock

Avoid stress by giving yourself plenty of time to travel.

Time Management - Hurriedness and stress due to poor time management are major contributors to collisions. When you don't give yourself enough time for travel, you will only become stressed. This detracts from your ability to operate a vehicle safely. Rushing while behind the wheel will cause you to take unneeded chances, speed, and become a road hazard. You need to allow sufficient time to drive for long road trips and be prepared for unexpected problems. Being prepared will help you be less frustrated with any problems you may encounter. Avoid driving while under severe duress because you will not be able to focus on the tribulations of the road.

Additionally, you should always observe maximum speed laws on highways and expressways and be aware of the basic speed law. That law states that you should never drive at a speed that is faster than what is safe, and you should neither impede nor block the flow of traffic. "Prima facie" speed limits apply even when no visible or noticeable posts are around. Despite a lack of time due to any number of circumstances, you must always follow traffic laws.

Anticipation - In all aspects of driving, you must be able to anticipate sudden changes, possible emergencies, and high-risk areas. You need to be able to make these adjustments without being careless behind the wheel. High-risk areas to drive through include schools, playgrounds, parks, hospitals, housing communities, businesses, and municipal centers. Also be wary of children at play and stray animals. You also need to consider various types of vehicular emergencies and be able to visualize corrective measures. Always allow a cushion of safety, with proper vehicle spacing, anticipation of road hazards, and avoidance of known congested areas. Learn where alternate exits are in case of an unexpected change or emergency situation.

Preparation - Always be prepared for vehicle trouble. Your vehicle should be properly equipped with road flares, a flash light, a fire extinguisher, fuses, paper and pencil, a cell phone (or change for a telephone call), a spare tire, extra oil, and in case of a collision, a camera to document the scene. Preparation is often the only assistance you will ever need.

Awareness of Traffic Conditions - Always be aware of traffic conditions on your chosen roadways and be prepared to make intelligent choices about where you choose to drive. Decisions to drive on side streets versus through streets, one-way versus two-way streets, or certain unsafe roads in general can lead to or prevent traffic collisions. A safe driver will have a general awareness of which roadways are the safest to travel upon, and will always make decisions with that knowledge in mind.

An image of a driver

This driver is properly positioned in her seat.

Body and Head Positioning While Steering - Your seating position while driving is important. Be sure you are properly positioned in the driver seat (sitting up straight with both hands on the steering wheel) with clear visibility over the steering wheel. The roadway must be visible without obstruction, and this relies on the position of your head and body in the vehicle. You must be buckled in the driver's seat, with your eyes able to focus on all aspects of the road ahead.

What are some behaviors that you can change to make your drive less stressful?

Preparing for a Short Trip

As a motor vehicle operator, most of the trips you will take in your car will be relatively short (within 25 miles of your home). You will probably be going to the store, school, a relative's home, or even a cross-city drive to a shopping mall. Being prepared for these trips far in advance of your departure will help prevent the foolish mistakes that often lead to collisions. So what can you do?

An image of a map with a miniature car on it

A map or navigation system can be great for locating routes that may be new to you.

Know Where You Are Going

Searching for addresses or buildings can cause the eyes to wander from the road and heighten collision potential. Having a general knowledge of the area where you are traveling without much need for dramatic slowing or pulling to the side of the road for building identification will reduce collisions in the long run. Get a map even if you know the area well. There are always places you haven't seen, and maps are handy for helping you find alternate routes. If you go on a long trip, a map can help keep you from getting lost. Some road maps are drawn to scale, so you can get an approximate distance of your trip.

Leave Enough Travel Time

Even though you may know the city in which you live quite well, you need to be sure you have enough travel time to get from place to place. High volume of traffic is often not considered, and detours or other factors may wreak havoc with your perfectly timed schedule. Running late will encourage speeding, poor driving and lack of focus on the laws of the road.

Have You Remembered Everything?

Some of the most organized people in the world rely on lists to remember things. In driving, the margin of error between safe and unsafe driving is slight and can be affected by almost anything. Forgetting to bring along essential items on a trip such as money, luggage, or even children can cause adverse driving traits to emerge that may lead to a crash or stress on the road, which contributes to road rage.

Emotions, Stress and Fatigue

Stress caused by time constraints often result in traffic collisions, as do risky maneuvers taken to "make up" for lost time. Your actions behind the wheel are usually consistent with your behavior in daily life outside the vehicle. Emotions have a direct impact on the way in which we operate a vehicle. Basically, if you can't control your emotions, you will be driving impaired. Your physical condition can also affect your actions behind the wheel.

An image of an angry driver

If you can't control your emotions, you will be driving impaired.

The following are some emotional and physical factors that affect driving and the suggested ways to handle each of them. Addressing them before they manifest on the road will help prevent collisions.

Anger - A person who drives while angry takes chances, speeds, and drives without control. If you are unable to control your anger while behind the wheel, you become a dangerous driver. You must control your anger prior to driving, with an understanding that you need total focus behind the wheel. A level head is vital to driving.

Sleepiness - When your body is tired, you are less alert. Your chances of a crash are greater as a result, especially if it is late at night. If you are tired, the only cure is to remove yourself and your vehicle from the road and get the much-needed rest. When you drive while tired, you are a danger to yourself and all others on the road. You must get adequate sleep before operating a motor vehicle; you also need to be able to recognize signs of drowsiness. If you find it difficult to stay awake, pull off the road and get some rest. Never fight fatigue while behind the wheel.

Daydreaming - When daydreaming, you are not focused on the road because your mind wanders onto other things. The result is that you may not have ample time to react to road conditions, other vehicles, pedestrians or other hazards. You must keep your mind focused on the task of driving while you are behind the wheel.

Physical Limitations - Driving is truly a physical activity, and like with any other activity, your body is limited in what it can do. The inability to reach a vehicle's clutch or turn indicator, for example, may contribute to a collision. You must assess your own physical limitations prior to operating a motor vehicle.

An image of an eye chart

Regular visits to an eye doctor should be part of a safe driver's routine.

Eyesight/Vision - Proper vision is important in most aspects of life, but in no area may it be more vital than while driving an automobile. For most people, eyesight deteriorates with age. Many motorists take the ability to see things clearly for granted, so they often do not take the corrective measures that increased age or changing vision may require. Driving a motor vehicle with anything but the best attainable vision is simply a hazard. Ego or lack of recognition of poor vision can make even the best driver dangerous behind the wheel.

Although a vision test is required to receive a driver's license, the time between renewal exams is often lengthy, and eyesight deterioration can begin during that time. Periodic visits to an optometrist or ophthalmologist should be part of a safe driver's routine. Corrective glasses or contact lenses must be worn when poor eyesight warrants. You need corrective lenses if you find yourself squinting to see street signs, pedestrians, or other cars. These warning signs may signal the need to see an eye doctor before a collision occurs.

Illness/Chronic Health Conditions - Some conditions may cause drowsiness or dizziness, and they can affect your ability to drive. It is not safe to drive if you are affected by medications taken for an illness. Over-the-counter medications can make you drowsy and affect your driving skills. It is important to follow these rules:

  • Never mix your medications unless directed to do so by a physician.
  • Never mix alcohol with your medications.
  • Drowsiness caused by illness or medications directly alters decision-making and the ability to safely operate a motor vehicle.

Drowsy Driving

An image of a driver asleep at the wheel

Driving while sleepy can be just as deadly as drunk driving.

Most people know about the dangers of drinking and driving, but few realize that driving while sleepy can be just as risky. Police often pull over motorists who appeared drunk only to find out they were simply sleepy. According to the National Transportation Safety Board, sleep deprivation causes roughly 100,000 crashes a year, or 1.5% of all crashes nationwide (as reported by police). There may actually be more crashes caused by sleepy drivers, but unfortunately there is no sure way to determine whether someone was too drowsy while driving.

Key Statistics

Every year the National Sleep Foundation conducts a survey of different groups of Americans to examine their sleep habits. NSF's 2006 Sleep in America poll looked at the relationship between American teenagers' lifestyles, sleep habits and sleep problems. Sleep deprivation in America continues to be widespread, which is unhealthy and counterproductive. It is no different for teenagers; in fact, this survey shows that this problem gets worse as they progress through their teen years. Some highlights of the NSF findings in 2006 include:

  • Only 20% of American teens do not get the suggested nine hours of sleep each night, and almost half (45%) sleep less than eight hours on school nights.
  • 28% of high school students fall asleep in school.
  • 14% of high school students arrive late or miss school because they overslept.
  • 51% of teen drivers admitted to driving while drowsy.
  • 15% of teen drivers in the 10th and 12th grades actually drove while drowsy at least once a week.

Effects of Sleep Deprivation

When you are fatigued, you are less alert. This means that your chance of being involved in a crash is greater, especially at night. If your circadian rhythm, or biological clock, is disrupted, you will probably show signs of fatigue. These disruptions include staying up late to work, study or party. Your circadian rhythm tells your body when and how much it needs to sleep, for example. A study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that those who sleep six to seven hours a night are two times more likely to be involved in a drowsy driving crash than those sleeping 8 hours or more, while people sleeping less than 5 hours increase their risk four to five times. A study from North Carolina found that about 55% of fatigue-related traffic crashes were caused by drivers 25 or younger.

As a depressant, alcohol will slow down your body. When someone drinks while tired, the problem becomes worse and may even be lethal. According to studies, having one drink of alcohol on six hours of sleep affects your ability to drive just as if you had six drinks on eight hours of sleep that night. A study in Australia found that a person deprived of sleep for 24 hours would be as impaired as if legally intoxicated.

There are many myths on drowsiness. The following are just a few of the more common ones:

An image of a man drinking coffee and driving

Coffee is only a temporary solution when you are feeling drowsy and need to drive.

  • Coffee will keep me awake - Drinking coffee may help, but only for a very short time.
  • I can tell when I am going to sleep - When you're drowsy, you may have a general idea, but you won't know exactly when, and that can prove fatal. Being asleep for even a few seconds while on the road can kill you or someone else.
  • I'm a safe driver, so it doesn't really matter - A young man who won the award for being "America's Safest Teen Driver" in 1990 was killed when he fell asleep at the wheel only a few months later. You are only safe behind the wheel when you are awake and alert!
  • I can't take naps - Even those who say they aren't tired will quickly fall asleep in a dark room if they haven't been getting enough sleep.
  • I get plenty of sleep - If you aren't getting the recommended 8-9 hours of sleep, you aren't getting enough sleep!
  • I'm young - young people don't need as much sleep - People under the age of 30 actually need MORE sleep! They usually sleep less because they enjoy staying up late.

So how do you know when you are too tired to drive? The following are common symptoms of a drowsy driver.

  • Difficulty keeping your eyes open and focused on the road.
  • Head feels unusually heavy.
  • Daydreaming and having wandering, disconnecting thoughts.
  • Excessive yawning.
  • Rubbing your eyes.
  • Drifting from lane to lane or tailgating.
  • Missing road signs, or your street.
  • Inability to recall last few miles traveled.
  • Irritability, impatience, or restlessness.

All it takes to crash is a second or two, so always make sure you have enough sleep before driving. To prevent fatigue from affecting your driving, here are some tips to consider:

  • Get a good night's sleep. Most teens need between 8.5 to 9.5 hours of sleep every night.
  • Keep a consistent sleep schedule, even for weekends and vacations.
  • Take a passenger on a long trip.
  • Schedule regular stops about every two hours or 100 miles.
  • Avoid alcohol and other drugs that may impair driving performance.
  • Avoid caffeine after lunchtime, including coffee, energy drinks and sodas.

Aggressive Driving

An image of a road rager taking his aggression out on the windshield of another car

A driver with road rage is clouded by anger and is highly dangerous.

Aggressive driving, particularly "Road Rage," is a rapidly increasing problem on America's roads. People often get into a vehicle when they are stressed or angry. Once they are behind the wheel, they often take out their problems on others with aggressive driving behavior. They may ignore the law, become discourteous, and have a basic disregard for others, often causing collisions or even fatalities. Many road rage killings result from angry drivers using their vehicle or even a gun as a weapon against others on the road!

Aggressive Driving and Road Rage

Though these terms are often used in place of the other, they are not the same. The typical aggressive driver is selfish, pushy and rude. He or she will speed, make improper lane changes, tailgate, pass improperly, cut off others, or do anything that is careless or rude. Road rage is aggressive driving taken to the extreme. A driver with road rage is clouded by anger and is highly dangerous. He or she will seek to hurt the other person, often to get even with drivers who tailgate, cut them off on the road, or use rude hand gestures. In most cases, however, road rage stems from the attitude or mood a driver brings with him or her behind the wheel.

Laws Against Aggressive Driving

In Nevada, aggressive driving is a criminal offense. This is discussed in the chapter on licensing, but to summarize, if you speed, commit certain traffic offenses, and endanger another person in an incident, you will be charged with a misdemeanor. If you hurt or kill another person, you will face felony charges under the reckless driving law.

What Causes Aggressive Driving?

In many cases aggressive driving results from frustration, which does lead to aggression in many situations. One primary example is traffic congestion. Who enjoys sitting in the car while stuck in traffic? The actions and situations listed below may trigger unwanted reactions from other drivers. Avoid these whenever possible.

An image of a crowded highway with a car illegally changing lanes

Crowded roads may trigger aggressive driving behaviors in some people.

  • Crowded roads.
  • Road work.
  • Obscene gesturing.
  • Changing lanes without signaling.
  • Blasting the horn or cutting people off.
  • Slowing down after passing someone.
  • Tailgating to pressure a driver to go faster or get out of the way.
  • Flashing lights in order to signal another driver to move to another lane.
  • Frequently changing lanes by weaving back and forth or traveling in the passing or left lane at slower speeds, making it impossible for others to pass.
  • Driving with the high beams on behind another vehicle or toward oncoming traffic.
  • Not making a right turn in the right-hand turn lane or not reacting quickly after the red light turns green.
  • Being in a hurry.

Some Significant Facts Regarding Road Rage

  • The number of drivers on the road has grown faster than road capacity. There are too many drivers using the roads!
  • A 2006 survey conducted by the car insurer Response Insurance found that fully half of drivers who encounter aggressive drivers respond aggressively.

Hints to Avoid a Dangerous Situation

In most cases, you can avoid confrontations with other drivers if you show courtesy and stay aware of what goes on around you. These include the following:

  • Maintain good, safe roadside manners no matter how others act around you.
  • Always use your turn signal to indicate when you are going to turn or change lanes.
  • Don't drive alone.
  • Avoid unnecessary use of high beams.
  • Don't block the passing lane, which is the left or fast lane.
  • Don't tailgate.
  • Don't steal parking spaces.
  • Don't drive when you are angry.
  • Listen to traffic and weather reports to learn of potential delays and hazards.
  • Eliminate excessive cellular phone usage while driving.
  • Don't change lanes if this will impede the car in that lane. Cutting off another driver is not only rude and unsafe; it will irritate and provoke that driver.

The preferred and suggested option to deal with a situation of road rage is to avoid the problem situation altogether and leave the scene as quickly as possible. Do not allow another's anger and ignorance affect you. The safest thing is to use your own good sense and protect your life.

How to Manage Your Anger

If your anger becomes a problem while driving, you need to take control! Following are a few things you can do to help get your anger under control:

  • Take a time-out. What works for young children is surprisingly effective for adults too! Sometimes counting to 10 will help defuse a situation.
  • Think before you act. How would you like to be treated if you mistakenly sat in the right turn lane without making a right? Would you want the people behind you honking and making a commotion? Probably not.
  • Don't take other drivers' mistakes personally. Remember that every driver on the road has his or her own agenda for the day and some are more stressed out than others. Instead ask yourself why you really are angry.
  • Practice relaxation techniques. Sometimes it helps to find ways to relax. Some people listen to music to help them calm down. Others take deep breaths or repeat a calming word or phrase. Exercise is also another excellent way to help your body relax.
  • Plan your time wisely. Being in a rush can cause you to react in anger. Planning your time better can help you avoid this. If it means going to bed earlier at night, a simple half hour can make all the difference in your attitude when you wake up in the morning.

How to Handle an Aggressive Driver

Despite your best efforts, you may still encounter an aggressive driver. In that case, you must immediately look for a way to resolve the situation. The following are a few things you should do:

  • Get out of the way and let the driver pass.
  • Avoid direct eye contact.
  • Never try to teach another driver a lesson.
  • Do not react to provocation. This means no one-finger salutes.
  • If you are followed, go to a safe, public place such as a busy shopping center or even a police station.

If you become involved in an incident of road rage with another driver, first calm yourself down and remember that your safety is the primary concern. Simply leave the scene if an aggressive driver is threatening you before anyone gets hurt. If the other person follows you or persists in antagonizing you on the road, drive to a public area or police station and request help. Never go to your home!

Video: "Preventing Road Rage"

It's an unfortunate fact that not all drivers are friendly. There is a chance you may run into an aggressive driver at anytime. Are you prepared? Please watch the following video about aggressive driving and road rage. As you watch, think about the factors that cause road rage and strategies for dealing with an aggressive driver.

Video: "Road Rage"
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Be a Cool Driver

Stressful conditions involving personal or business life will affect safe driving and should be recognized as negative influences on driving habits. You must evaluate your state of mind before attempting the operation of a motor vehicle, and you should not drive when you sense heightened stress, anger, emotions or fatigue. When emotions are exaggerated or heightened, limiting driving activities can help decrease the potential for collisions and injuries. Driving while irritated, upset or shaken will substantially alter your judgment when behind the wheel. An angry driver is dangerous.

Your ability to operate a motor vehicle safely requires you to be focused while behind the wheel, uncluttered by thoughts of aggravation or distress. The driver with a wandering mind caused by any one of the aforementioned effects has a decreased awareness of the road, a slower reaction time, and an overall lack of safe driving habits. This driver is more likely to make unsafe lane changes, speed, and take chances on the road. The ability to anticipate and determine upcoming hazards and conditions is also adversely affected.

Collision Potential

An image of a head-on collision

A driver who is tired, disturbed or distracted is more likely to crash.

It is statistically proven that the emotionally distressed or fatigued driver is more likely to be involved in a traffic collision than someone who is rested and clear-headed. A tired or disturbed driver or one with a cluttered mind has a decreased ability to avoid an automobile crash. Keep distractions within the vehicle to a minimum (i.e., children, pets, cell phones, etc.), and never drive when drowsy or tired. Remember to concentrate on the road, not on other matters.

Drivers' Attitude Towards State Driving Laws

Motor vehicle operators often look upon traffic laws with disdain. People stress the negative aspects of laws rather than the positive. But traffic laws are in place to save lives and are for everyone's benefit. Without laws, anarchy would reign supreme, and driving would be the least of our troubles. Drivers, on average, violate traffic laws over 400 times before they are actually cited. The occasional citation a driver does receive, in addition to his or her participation in a traffic safety program, usually reminds this person that safer driving habits are needed.

The Cool Driver

What makes someone a "cool" driver? Generally, a good driver has these traits:

  • Has a high level of attention.
  • Has accurate observation skills.
  • Keeps the vehicle's speed appropriate for the situation and conditions.
  • Is aware of the inherent risks (road and traffic situations in particular).
  • Realizes that auto wrecks, heavy traffic, and the actions of other drivers are often beyond their control.
  • Has the ability to "let go" of the insults, hand gestures, etc. directed at them by other drivers. Don't let road rage get a grip on you!
  • Understands that there is nothing out on the road worth dying for.

Journal Question

WHAT DO YOU THINK? Think of three separate, recent incidents where you experienced stress, fatigue and anger (doesn't have to be related to driving). Now take a look at your mindset during each incident. How did each of these affect the way you behaved? Consider how other people reacted to you.

[ CLICK HERE to add an entry to your Journal ]

Driving Distractions

There are many factors which can distract you on the road. Identifying them and not allowing these distractions to adversely affect the driving task are vital to collision prevention.

Driver Distractions Inside the Vehicle

An image of a driver holding a cell phone

A cell phone can be a major distraction.

Automobiles are often equipped with cellular phones, compact disc players, fax machines, etc., and all of these can distract you from the road. It should be obvious that these and other types of distractions will affect your ability to drive. Reaching for a ringing phone or searching for a radio station increases the potential for a collision.

Driver Distractions Outside the Vehicle

Although you must be aware of road hazards and road conditions that may affect your vehicle, you should not let outside distractions affect your safe driving habits. Billboards, homes, pedestrians, etc., may be attractive to view, but they should not deter you from the driving task. Awareness of the road is vital because a wandering eye can prove deadly. For example, real estate brokers are statistically involved in many collisions because the very act of looking at street names and addresses takes their eyes from the road. Without full attention to the roadways, collisions become inevitable. A handsome man or a pretty woman can distract drivers and cause rear-enders. This exemplifies the need for you to keep your eyes fixed on the road and to concentrate on the task of driving.

Emergency vehicles are another type of outside distraction that require respect and cannot affect you adversely. Ambulances or fire trucks should be allowed to use the roadway, unencumbered by other vehicles, and should not be obstructed in any way. Staring at or following emergency vehicles will only add to the problem on the road. Avoid getting caught up in scenery; admire these homes, buildings or views while stopped at a safe location, not while driving. These distractions will only contribute to potential collisions.

Driving with Cell Phones

Cell phones have become part of our culture. More than 200 million Americans are cell phone subscribers. Many of us have a hard time imagining life without this device. Unfortunately, this dependence means more distracted drivers because more people are using cell phones while driving. There are two dangers associated with driving and cell phone use. First, drivers must take their eyes off the road while dialing. Second, people can become so absorbed in their conversations that their ability to concentrate on the act of driving is severely impaired, jeopardizing the safety of vehicle occupants and pedestrians.

A study by some Canadian scientists, published in The New England Journal of Medicine (February 1997), states that talking on a cellular phone while driving quadruples the risk of having a crash, making it as dangerous as driving while drunk. At first, many dismissed this research. But other studies, such as one conducted in 2005 by the NHTSA, confirmed these findings. A 2002-2005 study from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety also showed that even a hands-free phone does not reduce the risk of a crash.

Cell Phone Safety Tips - The safest option is to avoid using your cellular phone while operating a motor vehicle and let your device's messaging service take your messages. However, if you still choose to use your phone, please follow the safety tips below:

An image of a driver holding a cell phone

Ideally you should read, type or send text messages only when you are off the road.

  1. Keep the phone close to you so you won't have to reach or look for it while driving.
  2. Dial only when at a stoplight or sign, or pull off the road to dial.
  3. Read, type or send text messages only when you are stopped, ideally when you are off the road.
  4. Never use your phone in distracting traffic situations or in stop-and-go traffic. Pull over and use the phone while off the road.
  5. Disconnect your cellular phone while using jumper cables as the power surge may burn out your phone battery.
  6. If you have a phone in your car, use it to report emergencies on the road by dialing 911. Always be ready to provide the closest major cross streets or off-ramps in the area.

Cell Phone Legislation

Since 1995, at least 45 states have proposed bills to ban or limit the use of cell phones in automobiles. As of January 1, 2009, five states and the District of Columbia specifically ban the use of handheld cell phones while driving except in emergencies. The states are:

  • New York. Effective November 1, 2001, drivers who talk on their cell phones while driving face a fine of $100 for a first violation, $200 for a second, and $500 thereafter.
  • New Jersey. Effective July 1, 2004, violators face a fine of $100 to $250. This became a primary law on March 1, 2008.
  • Connecticut. Effective October 1, 2005, first-time violators face a fine of $100.
  • California. Effective July 1, 2008, first-time violators face a fine of $20 plus assessment fees. This is a primary law.
  • Washington. Effective July 1, 2008, violators face a fine of $101. This is a secondary law.

Unless stated otherwise, these laws are primary, meaning the police can pull you over just for using your phone.

Other Laws

An image of a cell phone

Many states have this message for drivers: no texting while driving!

Eight states, as well as the District of Columbia, also have a ban on driving while texting (DWT) for all drivers as of January 1, 2009: Alaska, California, Connecticut, Louisiana, Minnesota, New Jersey, Utah, and Washington. Many more states are set to join them later, and even the federal government has considered it. While Washington was the first state to pass a law against driving while texting, it actually passed its cell phone law first. The DWT law in Washington is secondary, but drivers who are caught texting face a fine of $101. New Jersey's law is primary and violators face a fine of $100. Texting is a greater driving distraction than cell phones because you have to look down at the device to read, type or send messages. You also need both hands to use it. Virginia Tech Technical Institute (VTTI) recently conducted a study on cell phone use and texting while driving. While the study's conclusion on cell phones may not be shocking as it is in line with previous studies, what it concluded on texting just may be - the risk of a crash or near crash when texting while driving increases 23 times! Expect many other states, and possibly Congress (making it nationwide), to ban DWT in light of that study.

While only some states have any type of cell phone or DWT law, others simply ban distracting activities while driving, though Utah specifically mentions cell phones and texting as distractions. Many states (and the District of Columbia) do have laws to specifically keep young and novice drivers from using cell phones, even hands-free, while driving. California, for example, prohibits the use of any wireless device such as cell phones and text messaging devices by anyone under 18 except in emergencies. In addition, several states ban the use of all cell phones by school bus drivers.

What about Nevada?

Nevada does not have these types of laws yet, but you need to consider whether you can drive safely while using a cell phone or text messaging device. Studies show that for just about everyone, cell phones and other types of wireless devices are definitely distractions. Any situation that can mentally or emotionally distract you and take precedence over traffic matters is dangerous. You must keep distractions to a minimum and be focused at all times while driving.

Common Driver Distractions

Besides cell phones, other distractions include:

An image of a dog sitting in a driver's lap

A pet on the lap can make it more difficult to steer.

Passengers - Generally, passengers, especially children, can be distracting to drivers. For a teen driver, the biggest distraction is probably other teen passengers. All passengers must be buckled in the vehicle and instructed to minimize any distraction for the driver. Children, in particular, will take away your attention and heighten your potential for a collision. Your focus should always be on the road.

Pets - Pets should be leashed or in a pet carrier while in the vehicle, particularly if you put them in the back of an open truck. Leaving pets on the lap can cause collisions because they block the usage of car functions. If traveling with a pet, never let it interfere with your control of the vehicle. Secure it in the back seat with the care you would give any other passenger.

An image of a driver eating

Eating takes away the hands you need to steer your vehicle.

Eating - Eating is a distraction that forces you to take your hands off the steering wheel and your eyes off the road. If you need to eat, you should do so prior to driving, but if you don't think this is possible, eat only on the side of the road in a parked car.

Drinking - Drinking and subsequent spills often cause the eyes to focus away from the road. Hot spills can result in burns and increase the chances for a collision as well.

Smoking - Smoking prevents you from keeping both hands on the steering wheel. While that is not safe, it is the process of smoking that can be a dangerous distraction. When you have to reach for a cigarette, light it, put it out, or watch for falling ashes while trying to control your vehicle, you will lose your focus on the road.

An image of a driver using a car radio

Locating the right station should not take priority over your safety on the road.

Radio, Audio Tapes, CDs - Finding a station and looking down at the radio takes your eyes away from the road. Leaning over to change the station or an audio tape/CD will often cause you to veer off course and increase your potential for getting into a collision. Locating a station should never adversely affect your driving. To prevent this, preset your favorite stations on your radio so you do not have to adjust it to find what you want. Select the CD you want to listen to before you drive. Additionally, some people combine driving with dancing. Music is often stimulating, but physical gyrations while driving can interfere and prove to be unsafe.

Video Tapes, DVDs, etc. - Never watch a video or DVD while driving. While this may seem obvious, you'd be surprised at how many people do it! Keep your eyes on the road, not on a video screen.

Reading - Attempting to read and drive at the same time is impossible. This often leads to rear-end collisions; when you read, you are not watching the road and won't be able to stop if you run into heavy traffic. Reading newspapers or books perched on your steering wheel is simply asking for trouble. The act of driving must be respected.

An image of a driver applying makeup

The rear-view mirror is not for applying makeup.

Applying Makeup / Shaving - You have probably seen some drivers shaving or applying lipstick or makeup while behind the wheel. These actions have no place in the vehicle whatsoever and will likely lead to a collision. Prepare yourself at home before driving.

General Distractions

Any situation that can mentally or emotionally distract you and take precedence over traffic matters is dangerous. You must keep distractions to a minimum, and you must be focused at all times. Awareness of your immediate surroundings while driving is essential to avoiding collisions. Never allow distractions such as buildings, people, or other vehicles to alter your control of your vehicle. You must alter your visual habits if they are not conducive to safe driving. Look every two or three seconds at the rear view mirror, the speedometer, and the road ahead so you can get an adequate determination of speed, positioning and road conditions. Remember: be prepared for the unexpected.

General Driving Tips

  • Always keep ample following distance, and drive at a safe speed. Allowing a space cushion between your car and the one you immediately follow allows you more time to avoid unforeseen actions (i.e., turns and stops).
  • Be cautious when making right and left turns.
  • Try to anticipate the movements of other drivers.
  • Change lanes only when visibility permits.
  • Intersections should be entered with extreme caution. Never rely entirely on traffic signals.
  • Always know your position on the road.

Journal Question

WHAT DO YOU THINK? Of all the different types of distractions that people consider dangerous, the one that has often been singled out are cell phones. What other types of distractions do you think are just as dangerous, and why?

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