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Driving needs your full attention. Driver distraction is a serious road safety issue.
Essentially, anything that diverts a driver’s attention for more than two seconds can significantly increase the likelihood of a crash or near-crash.
In 2016, driver distraction was a contributing factor in 23 fatal crashes, 178 serious injury crashes and 917 minor injury crashes.
These are crazy figures but sadly won’t surprise a lot of motorists, given what we see on roads around New Zealand on a daily basis. Looking right back to 2003, the numbers of people being hurt and killed has barely changed.
However, there are more cars on the road, so the rate of crashes has actually dropped thanks, in part, to improvements in vehicle safety.
Here are six common distractions:
1. Mobile phones
We’ve all seen it and know what’s going on — the crotch-glance, the one car that’s slow to move in the queue, sloppy lane-keeping or the face-illuminating phone screen light at night.
How about connecting hands-free to the vehicle and stowing the phone out of reach, or removing the temptation by switching the phone off?
It may be stating the obvious, but it is illegal to send and receive text messages, emails, or take calls on hand-held mobile devices while driving and it increases your crash risk. Currently the penalty is an $80 fine and 20 demerit points on your licence.
There are many types of satellite navigation devices available to drivers. Modern vehicles now include it as factory, whereas others buy an external device or use Google Maps on their mobile phones.
A hard-to-operate Sat Nav can distract the driver and increase the chances of an accident.
As a driver, it is important to know how to best use your Sat Nav. Use voice commands, pull over to enter a destination or type it in before you turn the key.
Here’s one we’re probably all guilty of — grabbing food on the run. Although it’s not illegal to eat behind the wheel, it is definitely considered a distraction. An overseas study found snacking drivers had up to 44 per cent slower reaction times than normal.
If you can’t resist temptation, then adopt a “no food in car” policy, break up a road trip, and get out of the car and into the fresh air. As always, don’t forget to blow on the pie.
The main benefit of listening to music while driving is that it makes the journey a lot more fun — but skipping a song, channel surfing on the radio, or setting up music players can be a distraction and cause the driver to take his or her eyes off the road.
It’s also important that you are able to hear how your vehicle is running, and other outside influences. With music on full volume, you are less likely to hear any problems.
This also goes for the wearing headphones. The driver will be less likely to be aware of their surroundings, hear the sirens of emergency services, or another motorist’s horn sounded as a warning of potential danger.
Pets can be the cause of distractions — particularly if they’re unrestrained. You can never be sure how they’re going to react, especially if they are not familiar with a car journey.
A spooked pet can be unpredictable, and what better place to hide than down by the driver’s feet?
It is important to correctly restrain your pets, not only as they could be a distraction, but for their safety.
6. Applying makeup
Putting on lippy or mascara while looking in the rear view mirror doesn’t help anyone.
Applying makeup while driving will double your reaction time, and make you less aware of your surroundings. And you might poke the mascara wand in our eye.
Distracted driving is dangerous and could result in tragedy. Make sure that you stay safe and give your full concentration.
The bottom line is ... it takes only one second of distraction to cause a lifetime of hardship.