Does "On the Road Again" Mean "On the Phone Again"?

These days you see more cell phones than ever, and many of them will be on the ears of people behind the wheel of an automobile. Some of these phones and their owners will wind up in car crashes, but don't be too quick to blame the cell phone. Blame the drivers who use them in the wrong place at the wrong time, allowing conversations to divert their attention from the road.

"Hands-free devices make it easy to eliminate reaching and dialing, but it's not about having your hands free," said Rich White, a spokesman for the Car Care Council. "It's about having your mind free to concentrate on driving. It's best to pull off the road, or even better, call back later."

There are a variety of other situations that can distract motorists, whether they're en route to their vacation destination, or simply driving across town. Many of these can be addressed with little or no money. Examples include:

  • Things hanging from the rear view mirror? Take them down. They can obstruct vision out of both the front and rear windows.

  • A damaged rear view mirror? Get it repaired. Many of your driving decisions are only as good as the view from your mirrors.

  • Worn windshield wiper blades? Replace them. Smeared glass and chattering blades can be unnerving. Blades are inexpensive and you can probably do the installation yourself.

  • Torn or frayed car mats? Get new ones. The old mats can catch a heel, diverting your attention and/or interfering with the motion of your foot on the accelerator or brake.

  • Droopy headliner? Purchase a kit to reattach it or buy a new one. Material draping down in the back obstructs the view out of the rear window.

  • Keeping a pet in its place away from the driver.

Determine what annoyances you can fix yourself and which ones need professional attention, says the Car Care Council . Take care of them as soon as possible; to delay could mean an accident waiting to happen.