Breaking News Bar

DeNeal: Let's stay aware at the wheel in March (and the rest of the year)

updated: 4/14/2021 4:29 PM

I tend to be a bit skeptical when I read or hear about some unusual awareness campaigns.

For example, you may have had no idea that June is National Candy Month and, at the same time, National Great Outdoor Month. I sure didn't.

Our current month, April, has the honor of being both Stress Awareness Month and National Financial Literacy Month. I have a hunch the traditional April tax deadline may be involved with both of those.

While occasionally these monthlong awareness campaigns are lighthearted fun, the information that accompanies these months (often sent by one or more agencies recognizing the month) should be taken seriously.

That brings me to Distracted Driving Awareness Month, which also is recognized this month.

Insurance companies often send information about this month to newspapers and other media for publication. It makes sense, since insurance companies often are the ones paying for claims as the result of a collision. The big one, of course, is not to use a cellphone while driving. In Illinois, talking on a cellphone is permitted with an appropriate hands-free device or system, but a person certainly shouldn't be texting and driving or playing a game on a cellphone while behind the wheel. That should be the case whether it's a law or not.

Other tips involve securing loose items, adjusting climate control before driving, and being well-rested.

I'm going to throw in another couple of important considerations for this time of year: tractors and motorcycles.

While these two types of vehicles in terms of size are at opposite ends of the scale, motorists need to keep an eye out for both.

Now that farmers are moving tractors to fields in preparation of spring planting, we need to take precautions. I would recommend adding an extra 15-20 minutes to drive time just in case you get behind a tractor or other piece of farm equipment. Don't try to pass in a risky situation. If you suddenly find yourself on the tail end of a mini tractor parade, keep a close watch on your rearview mirror as well. It doesn't hurt to tap your brakes a little as traffic approaches behind you.

At the same time, more motorcyclists will be on the roads in warmer weather. If you get behind a motorcycle, I suggest adding a few extra seconds of stopping time between you and them. If you're meeting a motorcycle or group of motorcycles on a two-lane road, give them a little leeway and cheat right in your lane if you have the space and it's safe. Slow down a few miles per hour also, if possible. Just like when passing a tractor, only do so when it's safe. On a personal note, I try to avoid passing a motorcycle whenever possible. It's more likely that a motorcyclist will pass me, and if you find yourself in that situation, hold steady on the wheel. That's not the time to change the radio station.

If we can keep from being distracted when we drive, plus exercise caution when around tractors or motorcycles, we'll be far more likely to celebrate Family Reunion Month in July instead of Physical Therapy Month in October.