Safety advocates recognize the problem of distracted driving in April

Did you know that this month is "Distracted Driving Awareness Month?" Recent numbers from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration suggest that driving while distracted is a major culprit on U.S. roads. The practice, according to the safety agency, led to over 3,000 fatalities and 387,000 injuries in 2011.

As you might guess, the biggest problem relates to the use of cellphones, as we are all saddled to the latest smart phone. Moreover, many of these devices include additional technology, which is supposed to permit the user to engage in social media and other cellphone activities while driving. However, the numbers suggest that these "applications" are just making the distracted driving issue worse. They simply do not help, as the brain continues to multitask when it should be focused on the road.

Text messaging and driving is probably one of the most hazardous activities behind the wheel. This practice involves mental, visual and manual distractions. However, any type of cellphone use while operating a vehicle can be dangerous. Also, studies suggest it does not matter if motorists use hands-free devices, either. It is all generally unsafe.

How to avoid distracted driving

Life brings about several distractions, and it is always difficult to stay focused on the road. However, you should do the following to help limit the chance of a car accident:

  1. Constantly scan the road, using available mirrors. Be sure to look out for pedestrians and bicyclists, too.
  2. Store away possessions and other distractions, including your cellphone. If you need to make a call, you can always pull over.
  3. Make necessary adjustments before taking on the road. For example, adjust mirrors, the radio, the temperature and the GPS system before moving.
  4. Avoid grooming while on the road.
  5. Do not eat and drive. Eat before you get on the road or pull over at a secured stop if you become hungry.
  6. At all costs, avoid using technology behind the wheel (except in an emergency). In general, avoid checking your mail, text messaging or accessing the internet in any form.

In the end, it is very difficult to avoid every single distraction that arises while driving. The key, however, is to remove as many as possible before you get on the road. Phone calls and looking at a map can all be done before or after traveling. Moreover, if you must address an issue, simply pull over.

If you or a loved one has been involved in an accident linked to distracted driving, speak to a lawyer about your options. In the end, motorists have the duty to stay focused while driving. When negligent acts or distractions get in the way, the driver could be liable for sustained injuries.