Family and Friends Lifestyle

How to Safely Navigate While Driving

A grandmother driving with her grandson in the back seat.

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As the song goes, “There’s no place like home for the holidays.” The travel days around Thanksgiving and Christmas are some of the busiest on our nation’s roads as families travel near and far to visit loved ones. When you add the possibility of temperamental weather to the mix, along with using navigation apps to help you get to your destination, driving can quickly become a safety hazard.

According to the CDC, more than one thousand people are injured every day in accidents caused by distracted driving. That’s why our experts are weighing in before you make your holiday travel plans. From helping you recognize the top driving distractions to offering tips for using your GPS safely, we’re here to help you get to your holiday celebrations — safe and sound.

Top Distractions While Driving

The CDC highlights three distraction types that interfere with safe driving:

  1. Cognitive distractions, or things that turn your mental focus away from driving
  2. Manual distractions, like removing your hands from the steering wheel
  3. Visual distractions, or things that shift your eyes from the road

Safe driving takes concentration. Perhaps that’s why some of the most common causes of distracted driving in the United States come as such a surprise. They include:

  • Applying makeup or shaving
  • Eating or drinking
  • Engaging with passengers or pets
  • Reaching for something inside the vehicle
  • Using electronic devices
  • Watching something outside the vehicle

Tips to Use Your GPS Safely

Fortunately, there are several ways to make sure you can still drive safely while using your GPS, including:

  • Adjust your volume: Be sure to turn down the volume on any music, podcasts or audiobooks while you’re getting directions. Using your ears means you won’t have to look away from the road to see where you’re going.
  • Ask for help: If you have a passenger, put them in charge of managing your GPS and voicing directions.
  • Avoid sudden driving maneuvers: Your GPS should warn you of turns and upcoming exits. Listen for these early prompts to avoid last-minute — and potentially dangerous — tactics. And if you miss a turn, let your GPS recalculate to find the safest new route.
  • Choose the right device for you: For many drivers, in-vehicle navigation is the best option for GPS since it allows you to navigate hands-free and provides a large visual of your route. However, if you need to use another device, mount it where it’s easy to see, ideally at eye level.
  • Program your destination before driving: Typing a destination into your GPS takes your eyes off the road for precious seconds, which increases your likelihood of getting into an accident. Input your destination before you shift your vehicle into drive and take a moment to familiarize yourself with the general route you’ll be taking.

What to Do if You Need Help on the Road

Even the safest driver can have an accident. If you do, it’s important to remain calm so you can make safe decisions. Above all else, you need to get out of harm’s way and turn off your engine. If your vehicle is stuck on the road and you cannot drive it, don’t get out of the car to push. Instead, wait in your car for help to arrive. Either way, make your vehicle visible by your hazard lights and any flags, flares or reflective devices you have to mark your location for other drivers to see.

Once you, your passengers and your vehicle are safe and visible, you’ll want to note your vehicle’s location: Look around for mile markers, exit signage or other landmarks to direct emergency responders, tow trucks or other helpers.

Next, check for injuries. If anyone is hurt, call 911 as soon as possible. You’ll also want to call 911 if your car is blocking traffic or if you’ve been in an accident with another vehicle, so police can help manage the situation. It’s also crucial that you avoid asking other drivers for help, as it can lead to other accidents.

Finally, you’ll need to call roadside assistance (often offered through your insurance, AAA or even some credit cards) to coordinate a tow truck. While you’re waiting, document any damage. Your insurance company will ask for an assessment of the damage to your vehicle, about any others involved in an accident and may want to see pictures. Also, be sure to exchange insurance information with any other drivers involved.

Help Is Always Here

Whether you’re on the road or at home, don’t let a medical emergency take you off course. No matter where you are, AdventHealth is here to help. Find a location close to you.

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