Be a safe driver – turn off that smartphone

Smartphones are everywhere – and they’re used by people for everything from personal entertainment to conducting business while on the road.

But when you’re behind the wheel and driving safely, probably the last thing you should be doing is using your smartphone.

Drivers talking on cellphones cause an estimated 1.4 million crashes each year, according to a January 2010 report from the National Safety Council. Drivers who are texting and driving are blamed for 200,000 accidents annually.

In many states, drivers are prohibited from using hand-held smartphones and cellphones while driving. Cellphone use while driving contributes to some 636,000 crashes, 330,000 injuries, 12,000 serious injuries and 2,600 deaths each year, according to a 2009 study from the Harvard Center of Risk Analysis.

To help keep the drivers (and passengers) safe in your family, consider establishing some smartphone safe driving tips for in the car. Here are some ideas from The Governors Highway Association and Consumer Union:

* Turn off the phone, or switch it to silent mode when you get into the car. If it’s not ringing or vibrating, you don’t know that you’ve missed something and won’t be tempted to respond.

* If you need to make a call, pull over to the side of the road and put your car in park – or turn it off – before dialing. This will allow you to avoid being distracted and removing your attention from the road.

* Have a passenger handle all phone usage while you’re driving the vehicle. This will allow you to still participate in the conversation, but you will be able to keep your hands on the wheel and your eyes on the road.

* Look for applications you can download to your smartphone that prevent a person from texting while driving, or that sends out a message to callers telling them you are driving and unable to answer the phone.

Stay safe on the road, and encourage all your family members to also practice safety on the road while behind the wheel.

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