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Reduce distractions behind the wheel

Despite the fact that automobiles are now designed with more safety features than ever before, the rate of traffic accidents and fatalities continue to rise. The National Safety Council says safety improvement like crash-avoidance technology hasn't reduced accidents, and driver error is still to blame for many crashes - with distractions behind the wheel and impaired driving leading the way.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says distracted driving claimed 3,450 lives in 2016 alone. Distracted driving is defined as any activity that diverts drivers' attention from the road. This can include everything from talking to passengers to eating to fiddling with the car radio. However, distractions from technology have become especially alarming, particularly texting or reading phones while driving. During daylight hours, approximately 481,000 drivers typically use cell phones while driving. The NHTSA says that removing one's eyes from the road for a mere 5 seconds when traveling at 55 miles per hour is like driving the length of a football field with your eyes closed.

Reducing distractions should be a priority for all drivers. Here are some suggestions, courtesy of Geico insurance and AAA Exchange.

· Store loose gear and other items that can roll around away from the driver's seat so you are not tempted to reach for them.
· Adjust mirrors, GPS maps, climate controls, music, and more before you put the car in drive.
· Use a mobile phone only for emergency purposes and only after pulling over to the side of the road. Avoid social conversations on the phone while driving.
· Limit the number of passengers you allow inside your car. The more passengers, the more distractions. This is especially true for young drivers.
· Eat food before getting in the car. Snacking while driving makes you less attentive to the road around you.
· Secure children and pets accordingly. Both should wear harnesses and not be given free reign to roam around the car.
· Try to focus only on driving while in the car. Leave the multitasking to when you're not behind the wheel.

Studies have shown people are limited in the amount of information they can process at any one time. Driving requires focus and an ability to react to a host of potential circumstances. Distractions compromise drivers' ability to focus. Reducing distractions can considerably cut down on the number of motor vehicle accidents each year. 

Tips for staying safe with keyless systems

Auto manufacturers have long embraced technology that can streamline the automotive experience for drivers. For example, several years ago keyless entry and ignition systems were introduced, initially on high-end vehicles before they became standard on many other models.

Keyless entry systems require a fob, which sends a signal to the receiver inside the vehicle. The fob transmits a low-frequency code to the car's internal computer system, which engages the locks and will allow the driver to push a button on the dashboard or console to start the vehicles. The fob can be stashed away in a pocket or purse and still send the signal, which makes it convenient for drivers. Drivers with arthritis or hand injuries also may find keyless systems an asset.

Because fobs work on wireless systems, hackers potentially can intercept the fob-to-car signal. That enables a thief to not only open the vehicle's doors, but also to potentially drive away as well. Even though the fob/car security pairing is unique and can create billions of codes, researchers at Radboud University in the Netherlands and the University of Birmingham found that, by intercepting the wireless signal just twice, they could narrow down the possible combinations from billions to just 200,000. After that, a computer can figure out the code in just half an hour and unlock the car. Potentially, a thief can gather car codes as drivers enter their vehicles during the day, then return later to steal a number of cars.

Thieves who purchase signal amplifiers also pose a threat. These amplifiers magnify the reach of the fob signal so that a vehicle owner can be in his or her house with the fob, but the thief can walk up to the car and open it - even if the fob is far enough away that it should not engage. One way to circumvent this is to buy a signal-blocking pouch that can hold the key fob. Also, an old-school steering wheel or gear shift lock is an effective way to provide another layer of protection.

Drivers also should be aware of their surroundings as they approach their vehicles. Thieves may count on keyless entry systems to be able to hop into a vehicle once the owner gets within range and drive away.

Vehicle technology thrives to make driving as convenient as possible, but some features also may make things more convenient for prospective thieves.
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