Remember learning to catch a ball or hit one with a bat? Or have you taught a child to catch or bat lately? Chances are, the words “keep your eye on the ball” were part of the lesson.
Just as concentration is necessary to pluck a baseball out of the air, a driver’s undivided attention is key to safe driving. Out on our roadways, objects are in motion. They’re moving quickly, and they’re dangerously big and heavy. Short distances and fractions of a second separate safety from catastrophe. Paying attention to the road – and avoiding distractions – may be the most important thing a driver can do to reduce the chance of a crash.
It’s certainly the most popular safety tip mentioned in our recent social media poll. We asked our fans and followers on Facebook, Google+ and Twitter to offer their best advice for new drivers. The majority of the responses were related to avoiding distractions.
Best Advice for New Drivers:
1. Don’t text and drive. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) website, texting behind the wheel can increase your likelihood of a crash by three times. A distracting activity like texting keeps a driver’s eyes off the road for an average of five seconds. At about 40 mph, that’s like driving the length of a football field while blindfolded.
— HMSguy (@HMSguy) April 2, 2014
2. Avoid other distractions like loud music, grooming or eating while driving. Your attention should be devoted to driving, both for your safety and the safety of others on the road.
3. Look ahead. Smart drivers pay attention not only the vehicle or roadway directly ahead of them. They also keep an eye on traffic farther ahead. Looking ahead means more reaction time, which allows drivers to respond to changing speeds or conditions smoothly, not abruptly.
4. Choose a vehicle with a manual transmission. Stick-shift cars and trucks aren’t as easy to drive as those with automatics, but the extra work can pay off. Since both hands are required to steer and change gears, drivers with manual transmissions have fewer opportunities to handle a phone or a cheeseburger while driving.
5. Get the app and take the pledge. This tip comes not from our fans but from us here at NAPA. It’s good advice not only for new drivers but for anyone that wants to improve safety by reducing distracted driving. Designed to automatically detect when the user is driving, the Safe Texting App helps drivers to wait for a safe time to text. It’s available free for iPhone or Android devices.
6. Stay home, or take the bus. It was a tongue-in-cheek response, but fans that urged unsafe drivers to stay off the roads make a good point: safe driving is far too important to take lightly. If you’re not up for the responsibilities, you may be better off catching a ride from someone who takes safe driving seriously.
What advice would you give new drivers? Let us know in the comments, or join the conversation on Facebook.
Nick Palermo is a freelance automotive writer and NAPA Know How blogger. Since becoming an auto news and reviews contributor at AutoTrader.com in 2011, he has broadened his coverage of the automotive industry to include topics like new car technology, antiques and classics, DIY maintenance and repair, industry news and motorsports. A committed advocate for automotive media professionals, Nick is a member of the Greater Atlanta Automotive Media Association.