More Than Texting and Driving: The Top 10 Driving Distractions Teen and First-Time Drivers Need to Eliminate

For a teen or first-time driver, the process of learning to drive and obtaining that first license is incredibly exhilarating. At the same time, parents of these new drivers are facing a world of anxiety and uncertainty. To help teens, parents and first-time drivers navigate this new terrain, Christian Brothers Automotive has created a series of 10 important lessons for teen drivers and first-time drivers.

Having already covered driving practice, purchasing a car and obtaining the license, today's topic is a bit more serious. Today's lesson is on the dangers of distracted driving, or what some are calling, "the new drunk driving."

Doug Smith, Senior vice president of personal lines at Erie Insurance explains, "Distracted driving is any activity that takes your eyes off the road, your hands off the wheel, or your mind off your primary task of driving safely.

To ease teens into this new responsibility and to bring parents some much-needed peace of mind, here are Christian Brothers Automotive's top 10 driving distractions teen and first-time drivers need to eliminate:

10. Grooming

Specifically for young females, the temptation to save a few minutes in front of the mirror is all too real. Especially when you're running late for class, it can be easy to see the car's vanity mirror as a valid substitute. But remember, when your attention is on the perfect mascara application, you're not watching the car's direction. Keep your eyes on the road and save the makeup application for home or school.

9. Smoking

Most new drivers are too young to legally buy a pack of cigarettes, but we know teenagers will always find a way to acquire this rebellious habit. The general health concerns of smoking aside, smoking while driving is a dangerous habit to get into. The process of lighting a cigarette requires both hands off the wheel and, every time you flick the ashes, your attention is not on the road. In certain states, getting caught flicking a butt out the window can even earn you a ticket for littering.

8. Rowdy passengers

Getting your first license is a thrilling experience, and wanting to share this time with friends is understandable. However, there is a time and a place to put your attention on fun conversations and goofing around. That time is not while you're flying down the road in two tons of metal.

Most states are taking precautions against too many passengers in a new driver's car, including probationary periods and passenger number restrictions. Once the probation period is over, however, continue limiting the number of passengers and their ability to distract you while driving.

7. Pets in the car

Some dogs love car rides, and it can be fun to watch your four-legged friend enjoying the strong wind from an open window. Unfortunately, this experience can become dangerous for you both if your pet moves around too much and requires attention that should be on the task at hand. Keep yourself and your best friend safe by purchasing a car harness. Available at most pet stores, this handy device will strap your friend into a seatbelt and keep them from wandering around the vehicle.

6. Searching for a lost object

Few things are more frustrating than dropping something and being unable to find where it fell. When you're driving, however, looking for that object can cost your life. If you drop a french fry, your phone or any other small object while driving, pull over to the side of the road before looking for it. Don't risk your life trying to reclaim a runaway earring.

5. Looking at maps or navigation devices

Nowadays, most phones are equipped with GPS navigation systems. These systems are incredibly useful and can save hours and frustration when driving through unfamiliar territory. Unfortunately, this life-changing device can quickly turn into a nightmare.

Putting in an address or holding the phone in front of your face to see the next direction are distractions that could cost your life. To be safe, always pull over to put in or change an address, and turn the vocal directions loud enough that you don't have to look away from the road while driving.

4. Eating and driving

Fast food can be a great time-saver and, especially on road trips, it can be tempting to eat and drive at the same time. Don't do it. Between unwrapping food, preventing spills and disposing of the trash afterwards, there are too many distractions for eating and driving to be a good idea. The 10 minutes spent eating inside the restaurant is always worth one less distraction on the road.

3. Music and other media

A distraction isn't only dangerous because it diverts your eyes from the road. Anything that requires the use of your hands or your mental faculties is a potentially fatal distraction. Tuning the radio, singing along to your iPod or trying to watch a video while driving can all have disastrous consequences. Again, only reach for the radio dial or look at your iPod when the car has come to a complete stop.

2. Your mobile device

By now, everyone is well aware of the dangers of cellphone use during a drive. Even with the evidence against this potentially fatal habit, in 2012, an estimated 421,000 people were injured in motor vehicle crashes involving a distracted driver. Furthermore, in any given moment across America, about 660,000 drivers are using their phones or another electronic device while driving.

Many states are now taking measures to prevent texting and phone calls during a drive. It's important to note, however, that even a hands-free phone call is still taking your attention from the drive and should be avoided whenever possible. No text message or phone call is worth your life.

1. Letting your mind wander

It is reported that the single biggest distraction while driving is daydreaming or "driving in a fog." If you're tired, excessively stressed or simply lost in your own world, you pose a danger to yourself and other drivers by choosing to get behind the wheel. If you have a lot spinning around in your mind, you're lacking sleep or are otherwise inebriated, call for a ride. The minor inconvenience of asking for help from a friend or paying for a taxicab could be the difference between getting home safely and ending up another statistic.

No distraction is worth your life.

Getting your license is exciting and should stay that way. By being aware of the ten biggest driving distractions and taking active steps to eliminate these distractions while you drive, every trip behind the wheel can be safe and enjoyable. Driving is a huge responsibility and privilege. When you're alert and aware of your surroundings, you're not only protecting yourself; you're protecting every other driver and passenger on the road.

Other posts in the series

1. 8 Driving Safety Tips for Teen and First-Time Drivers

2. 5 Important Driving Practice Conditions For Teen and First-Time Drivers

3. Teen and First-Time Drivers’ 6 Steps to Obtaining Your License

4. 12 Steps to Buying a New Car for Teen Drivers

5. 6 Steps to New Vehicle Registration for Teen and First-Time Drivers

6. What Parents Need to Know About Teen Driver Insurance

7. Guidelines to Buying Your Teen the Best Car Possible

8. More Than Texting and Driving: The Top 10 Driving Distractions Teen and First-Time Drivers Need to Eliminate

9. The 3 Most Common Reasons Cars Breakdown (And What Teen Drivers Need to Do When it Happens)

10. The 8 Most Important Car Maintenance Services Teen Drivers and First-Time Drivers Need To Know

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