Newswise — According to the National Safety Council, there were more than 40,000 motor vehicle deaths across our nation in 2017, with distracted driving being cited as a major contributor.

Lots of common, guilty habits contribute to distracted driving accidents: eating and drinking while trying to maintain control of the wheel, personal grooming on the go, changing out a CD.

But the worst driving habits—whether it’s reading or sending text messages, checking your missed call logs and voicemail or connecting your device to a cable—are linked to cellphone use. 

Engaging in any activity that diverts attention away from driving is considered distracted driving. All distractions can endanger not just the driver, but passengers and bystanders. Drivers of all ages are prone to distracted driving, but especially less-experienced drivers under the age of 20.

Distracted driving presents in three different forms: cognitive (when your mind isn’t fully focused on driving), visual (when you’re looking at something other than the road ahead), and manual (when you take one or both hands off the wheel for any reason). All three forms apply to cellphone use, especially when it comes to texting, which happens more often, and at longer intervals, compared to other forms of distraction. Answering a text diverts your attention for about five seconds; when traveling at 55 mph, that's enough time to travel the length of an entire football field.

In honor of Distracted Driving Awareness Month, Sinai Hospital of Baltimore and LifeBridge Health are urging all drivers to keep their eyes on the road, hands on the wheel and mind on driving.

You should keep cell phones out of reach while driving (in your purse, behind your seat, etc.). Avoid things like texting, playing video games or using the Internet on a wireless device while driving. Wait until you’re not driving to make phone calls or check or send messages; if a phone call (or any other activity requires your attention) is urgent, safely pull off the road and stop your vehicle. Also, consider using auto-reply text messages when driving to let your family and friends know you’ll get back to them at a more convenient time.

Here are some other tips to remember when you’re on the road:

  • Watch out for pedestrians and cyclists.
  • Make adjustments to your vehicle systems (GPS, seats, mirrors, climate controls and sound systems) before taking off.
  • Finish dressing and personal grooming at home, before you hit the road.
  • Eat meals or snacks before or after your trip, not while driving.
  • Secure children and pets before driving.
  • Minimize electronic distractions by storing devices such as smart phones or tablets in a safe location. If there’s a passenger in the car with you, maybe he or she can assist with reading messages and answering calls.

LifeBridge Health is one of the largest, most comprehensive providers of health services in Maryland, comprising Sinai HospitalNorthwest HospitalCarroll HospitalLevindale Hebrew Geriatric Center and Hospital, and related subsidiaries and affiliates. For more information, visit