Distracted drivers: Six tips to stay alert on the road
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Driving requires full attention at all times. Distractions can be visual (you’re looking at it) and cognitive (you’re thinking about it). Anything that diverts a driver’s attention for more than two seconds can significantly increase the likelihood of a crash or near-crash.
Using crash data recorded for the 12 months ending April 2018, driver inattention or diverted attention had the fourth highest social cost factor for vehicle crashes, with alcohol-related crashes taking third place.
Here are six common driving distractions:
1 Mobile phones
We’ve all seen it — the lap-glance, that one car that’s slow to move in the queue, sloppy lane-keeping or the face-illuminating phone screen light at night.
The smartest, safest thing to do is to connect a hands-free kit to the vehicle. If you don’t have a hands-free option on your device then stow the phone out of reach, or remove the temptation altogether by switching it off.
It may be stating the obvious, but it is illegal to send and receive text messages and emails, or take calls on hand-held mobile devices while driving. It significantly increases your crash risk. The penalty is an $80 fine and 20 demerit points on your licence.
Many types of satellite navigation (sat-nav) devices are available to drivers. Most modern vehicles now include it as standard, and many drivers with older vehicles have an aftermarket device installed, or use Google Maps on their mobile phones.
A hard-to-operate sat nav can distract the driver and increase the chances of an crash. It’s important to know how to best use your sat-nav — either use voice commands, or pull over to enter a destination before turning the key.
Here’s one we’re probably all guilty of — grabbing food on the run. While it’s not illegal to eat behind the wheel, it is a distraction. An overseas study found snacking drivers had up to 44 per cent slower reaction times than normal while eating.
While the main benefit to listening to music while driving is that it makes the journey a lot more fun, skipping a song, station surfing, or setting up music players can be a distraction.
It’s important that you’re able to hear how your vehicle is running and other outside influences. With music on full volume, you’re less likely to hear any problems.
This also goes for wearing headphones: drivers will be less aware of surroundings, to hear emergency service sirens, or another motorist’s horns to warn them of potential danger.
Pets can be the culprit 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.
Spooked pets can be unpredictable, and what better place to hide than by the driver’s feet? It’s important to correctly restrain pets, not just because they could be a distraction but also for their safety.
6 Applying makeup
Application of lipstick or mascara by looking into the rear view mirror while driving isn’t safe for anyone. Applying makeup while driving can slow reaction time and cause drivers to be much less aware of your surroundings.
There’s always the chance of needing to emergency stop, which could lead to the mascara wand poking an eye.
Being distracted is not illegal, but it’s risky and can lead to serious charges should distraction lead to an injury or death.
If your eyes are off the road, even at just 30km/h, you’ve travelled 8m/second — so two seconds looking away can equal 16m (3+ car lengths). At 100km/h that’s 28m/second!