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SAFE DRIVING: Protecting Yourself Behind the Wheel


Submitted by Kanoski Bresney Law Firm


Driving a car can give you freedom. But it’s also one of the riskiest things you do every day. Almost 43,000 people died in car accidents in the U.S. in 2021. Millions more are injured each year.

Many things can make driving risky. Speeding, not paying full attention to the road, and driving while tired all increase your chances of a crash. Of course, drinking or using drugs is especially dangerous.

Fortunately, there are things you can do to keep yourself and others safe while in the car.


Distracted Driving

With cell phones and screens everywhere, distracted driving has become a major problem. Because we’re so phone-driven, the tendency is when somebody calls us or texts us, we want to respond immediately. To drive safely, we must overcome that powerful impulse.

Texting can take your eyes off the road for seconds at a time. In just five seconds, you travel the entire length of a football field at 55 miles per hour. But distraction isn’t limited to phones. It’s anything that takes attention away from driving the car such as eating, fiddling with the radio, or attending to children in the back seat.

Reaching for objects is also a big problem. You may take your eyes off the road when you reach for your sunglasses or something in the seat next to you. People of any age can give in to distractions and many adults admit to texting, answering calls, and other dangerous behaviors. That’s a problem because teens are modeling their parents’ actions as they learn to drive.


Teen Drivers

Studies show that teen drivers are at greatest risk for crashes. Crashes are higher among 16- to 19-year-olds than any other age group. That’s partly because some driving skills get better with experience. But teens are also prone to distraction, especially with friends in the car.

“The first six months of driving on their own is the most dangerous,” says Dr. Ginger Yang, a teen driving expert at Nationwide Children’s Hospital and Ohio State University. The risk of getting in an accident remains high until at least their early 20s.

Parents can sometimes become less engaged when their teens first start driving independently. But even after being handed the keys, teens are still looking to their parents. “Parents need to be good role models, because teens are still watching and learning from how parents behave,” Yang says.

Yang advises parents that “conversations about safe driving need to be small topics each time but be brought up multiple times.”  Timing is important. Both parents and teens need to be calm for conversations to be effective.


Older Drivers

Younger drivers aren’t the only group at greater risk of crashes. As you age, physical and mental changes can make driving more dangerous. “There’s a number of changes that happen in our vision as we grow older,” says Dr. Cynthia Owsley, who studies the impact of aging on vision at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

Eye diseases, such as glaucoma, naturally get worse with age. Older adults are also more likely to have certain eye conditions that affect sight, like cataracts and age-related macular degeneration. Problems distinguishing an object from its background, called contrast sensitivity, are also common. “Think of looking through a dirty windshield: Everything looks kind of washed out,” Owsley says.

Vision problems can also affect your peripheral vision. This can make it harder to see cars in the lanes next to you. For older adults, changes in the brain can make driving riskier, too. Owsley and others have shown that cognitive decline—problems with memory and other brain functions—increases the likelihood of a car crash.

Changes in physical ability, such as strength and reflexes, can also make driving more dangerous as you age. But getting older doesn’t necessarily mean you have to stop driving. “I think the public worries about older drivers, but actually most older drivers are quite safe,” Owsley says. It’s older drivers with visual and cognitive impairments that are at greatest risk.

If you’re concerned about an older person’s driving, it’s important to start a conversation with them. Experts advise watching for the signs that driving is getting unsafe, like getting lost on familiar routes, experiencing a near-miss, or receiving a traffic ticket.


Safer Driving

Whether you’re a new driver or have been driving for decades, it’s important to always think about safe driving. The good news is that advances in car design and safety technology are helping protect you behind the wheel. You can also do several things to reduce your risk of an accident. Always stay alert, resist the urge to text or look at your phone, drive at the speed limit, and if you take a new medicine, be sure that side effects won’t affect your driving.


For more information on any type of personal injury or to schedule a free consultation, contact Kanoski Bresney law firm at 888-826-8682. They are the largest personal injury law firm located within central Illinois and they have the resources to handle any type of injury claim anywhere in the state including McLean County, Sangamon County, Adams County, Champaign County, Schuyler County, Peoria County, Macomb, Macon County, Quincy, Bloomington, Tazewell County, Champaign, Decatur, McDonough County, Pekin, Springfield, Peoria, and Rushville. Their experience helps ensure that their clients get the respect, response, and results® they deserve. They will evaluate your case and work to determine what your next steps should be moving forward.