Car care: Six of the most common driving distractions
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Driving needs your full attention. Distractions can be visual and cognitive — so you’re not looking where you’re going and you’re thinking about how to unwrap that snack.
Essentially, anything that diverts a driver’s attention for more than two seconds can significantly increase the likelihood of a crash or near-crash.
Crash investigations find distraction to be a factor in about one in five crashes (that’s similar levels to alcohol) but studies recording in-car behaviour have indicated the true figure could be much higher.
Here are six common distractions:
1. Mobile phones
We’ve all seen it and know what’s going on — the lap glance, the one car that’s slow to move in the queue, sloppy lane-keeping or the phone screen light at night. How about connecting hands-free to the vehicle and stowing the phone out of reach or removing the temptation altogether by switching the phone off?
It is illegal to send and receive text messages and emails or take calls on hand-held mobile devices while driving and it increases your crash risk. The penalty is an $80 fine and 20 demerit points on your licence.
Modern vehicles now include satellite navigation as factory; other drivers buy an external device or use Google Maps on their mobile phones.
A hard-to-operate satnav can distract the driver and increase the chances of an accident.
As a driver, it is important to know how to best use your satnav. Use voice commands, pull over to enter a destination or type it in before you turn the key.
Though it’s not illegal to eat behind the wheel, it is definitely 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, adopt a no-food-in-car policy, break up a road trip, and get out of the car and into the fresh air.
While listening to music when you’re driving makes the trip a lot more fun, skipping a song, channel surfing or setting up music can be a distraction and cause the driver to take their eyes off the road.
It’s also important you are able to hear how your vehicle is running and hear what’s happening on the road around you. 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 a big distraction, 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 because they could be a distraction, but for their safety.
6. Applying makeup
Applying makeup while driving will slow your reaction time by double, and cause you to be less aware of your surroundings. There is always the chance of needing to quickly stop, which could lead to the mascara wand poking your eye.
Being distracted is not illegal, but it is risky and you could face serious charges should that distraction lead to injury or death if you crash. If your eyes are off the road, even at just 30km/h you have travelled 8m/sec — so two seconds looking away is 16m (three-plus car lengths). At 100km/h it’s 28m/second.
Make sure that you stay safe and give your full concentration. The bottom line is ... it only takes one second of distraction to cause a lifetime of hardship.