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Phones aren't the only dangerous distractions for drivers

Many people think they're not guilty of distracted driving because they don't use their phone behind the wheel. That's certainly an important safety measure. A buzzing phone or the sound of an email or text coming in can be hard to resist. Turning your phone off and putting it out of reach (maybe even in the trunk) can eliminate the temptation to just take a quick look while you're stopped at a light.

However, there are many other distractions that can take your eyes and mind off the road. Let's look at some of those and how you can minimize or eliminate them altogether.

Preprogram your GPS and entertainment selections. Put your destination into your GPS before you begin driving. If you plan to listen to a podcast, have it ready to play. Program your favorite satellite radio channels. Then you can access them with a quick tap or voice command.

Secure loose items. Nothing can be more distracting than an item that falls out of a bag and rolls around on the floor throughout your drive. Don't put anything on the seat that can topple over or roll off. If something does, let it go until you've reached your destination. If it's driving you crazy, pull over, turn the engine off and retrieve it.

Avoid having food or beverages in the front seat. The thought of driving to work without a cup of coffee and maybe a protein bar may seem unimaginable. However, aside from the fact that you take one hand off the wheel when you're eating or drinking, you also risk a spill or mess that can take your eyes off the road.

Secure your pets. If you're taking your dogs to the vets or the dog park, secure them in a safety harness and/or seat. It's safer for them and you. They can still look outside and you don't risk them jumping onto your lap or, worse, careening through the windshield if you stop suddenly. Cats feel most secure when they're in a carrier, and they're safer there than left free to roam the vehicle.

By eliminating distractions, you're better able to respond to actions by reckless or negligent drivers. However, if you're injured in a crash caused by someone else's actions (or distractedness), make sure that you explore your options for seeking the compensation you need and deserve as you heal.

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