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5 dangerous habits that lead to distracted driving

Every day, you see distracted drivers. Maybe you're dropping your children off at school and you see other parents on the phone while they drive through the school zone. Maybe you're heading out for lunch and you see drivers texting at every stoplight -- and often not putting their phones down when traffic starts moving again. Perhaps you're walking through the neighborhood when you see a friend drive by, turned all the way around to talk to his or her children in the back of the car.

No matter the specifics, you see distractions everywhere. You've heard the statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: 1,200 people get hurt every day in distracted driving accidents, while 15 people pass away.

To help you drive safely and do your part to end these deadly wrecks, here are five dangerous habits that lead to distracted driving accidents:

1. Eating behind the wheel

Even if you bought it at the drive-thru, save your food until you get home. Items like hamburgers and tacos slip or spill very easily. Drinks, from coffee to soft drinks, are also spill risks. Any time you spend looking down at your food to take a bite or a drink is time you're not looking at the road.

2. Dealing with your kids

As noted above, children can be a huge source of distraction. They keep talking. They want snacks. They fight with each other. They keep trying to take off their seat belts and stand up. You do need to deal with your kids, but you must do it in a safe manner, usually by pulling over first.

3. Feeling exhausted

A rough night of sleep got followed up by a long day at work. You're too tired on that drive home. You start nodding off. Feeling tired distracts you from the road, and falling asleep, even if it's just for a split second, can cause an accident. Don't try to tough it out.

4. Doing personal grooming

You don't have enough time at home to shave or put on your makeup, so you decide you'll do it in the car. Isn't that a better use of time, multitasking so that you can get to work on schedule? It may fit your schedule, but it's a serious distraction.

5. Gawking at things outside of the car

Reading a billboard. Staring at another car accident. Watching someone run or bike along the side of the road. Trying to see if the flashing lights up ahead are a police car or a firetruck. Any of these actions can be dangerous. Remember, all distractions aren't inside the car.

After an accident

Even if you avoid these distractions, that doesn't mean everyone else will. Be sure you know your rights after another distracted driver causes a crash.

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