Do you multitask behind the wheel, such as reading and sending text messages, making phone calls or even eating a meal? Well, there's just one problem. That kind of behavior can kill you. 80% of all car crashes and 65% of near-crashes involve some form of driver inattention during the three seconds before the event, according to a study by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute (VTTI) in Blacksburg, Virginia. U.S. News & World Report has identified the top five riskiest driving distractions:

Of all the distractions occupying a driver's attention, this is the most dangerous. When you read or type a text message, you are 23.2 times more likely to crash than a non-distracted driver, according to the VTTI study. If you can't stop yourself, the government will try. Eighteen states and the District of Columbia have already banned text messaging while driving, and a bill pending in Congress would make it illegal nationwide. Dialing a Cell Phone Taking your eyes off the road for just those few seconds it takes to dial your cell phone is enough to up your risk of a crash by 2.8 times. And if you dial a phone while driving a heavy vehicle or truck, that risk increases to 5.9 times. The VTTI study concludes, "These results show conclusively that a real key to significantly improving safety is keeping your eyes on the road."

Dealing With Your Kids
Passengers of any age are always a distraction, but the risk increases when those passengers are rowdy or rambunctious children, who don't understand how their behavior--from loud talking to arguing--can affect a driver. When kids misbehave in the car, parents naturally take their eyes off the road, and the result could be tragic.

Playing With the Controls
If you want to play that new CD or turn on the navigation system, set the controls before you pull out of your parking space, especially if you have a touchscreen that can only be operated if you look at it.

You wouldn't think munching a burger or sipping a soft drink would be deadly distractions, but they are. Dashboard dining doubles your risk of a crash. Some foods are more dangerous than others, especially hot liquids and greasy or gooey foods since they are more likely to spill.


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