Driving requires concentration and a state of constant alertness. Distractions can be deadly. In 2016 alone, 537 of the 1,445 fatal crashes in Britain could be attributed to some form of distraction.
The problem is that distractions are everywhere. They’re outside the car, in the form of pedestrians, cyclists, other drivers, signs, and adverts.
Unfortunately we’ll never be able to totally eliminate on-the-road distractions. But there’s a lot you can do to lower the risks - Jaama share our tips.
1. Take a Break
Eating and drinking while driving although not illegal can result in a penalty for ‘Careless Driving’ if the police consider you are not in proper control of the vehicle. It slows your reaction times, and often requires you to take your hand off the wheel. If you’re hungry or thirsty while on the road, take a break. If nothing else, it’s better for digestion.
The same goes for smoking and vaping although it IS illegal to smoke in a vehicle if you are carrying passengers under the age of 18. Smoking and vaping both require you to drive one-handed, and both slow your reaction times. If you drop your cigarette, you will panic, while the vapor from your vape could obscure your view.
Again, if you need a cigarette or a vape, pull over. It could help prevent an accident, and it will certainly prevent the inside of your car from unpleasant smells.
2. Turn off Your Phone
Countless accidents can be attributed to drivers using mobiles while driving. Between 2013 and 2015, around 24 people per year died in incidents linked to distracted drivers on their mobiles. This figure appears to be rising, and some experts even believe that the actual figures could be much higher.
Never text while driving. It involves taking your eyes off the road for an unsafe amount of time. That goes for all social media accounts, too.
Hands-free devices are still a distraction. However it’s not the speaking that’s illegal – although it does drastically reduce your concentration – but the physical operation of the phone. If you have to touch the phone at all that’s breaking the law.
Best practice is to turn your phone off on all journeys. Most conversations can wait, and if you really need to make a call or reply to a text, just pull over where it is safe and legal to do so, handbrake on and turn the engine off.
3. Map Out Your Journeys in Advance
Many drivers rely on sat-navs these days. While these can be helpful, they can also be very distracting – especially if you find you need to change your destination while on the go.
It’s best to map out your journeys in advance, and program your sat-nav before you even start your engine. Use the voice feature so that you don’t ever have to glance at your device. And if you feel like you’re going the wrong way or if you need to change your destination for any reason, pull over!
4. Brief Your Passengers
One of the biggest distractions while driving is other people. Most people understand that it’s dangerous to distract a driver, but some people do like to talk!
If you find that your attention is wavering because of a chatty passenger, politely explain to them that you need to concentrate on the road, and that their conversation can wait. They’ll probably understand.
If you have children in the car, the distractions can be more pressing, and they may be less likely to listen to reason. Before you set out, calmly explain to them that you need to focus, and that they need to be as quiet as possible for the entire journey. You could also try giving them something else to focus on while you drive, like a colouring book or a game.
Although they can sometimes pose a distraction themselves, passengers can also help to prevent distractions. If you need to change the destination on your sat-nav, or to skip past an annoying song on Spotify, ask your passengers to do it! That way, you can dedicate all of your attention to the road ahead.
5. Stay Focused
Commit to giving the road 100% of your attention. Not only will you drive safer, you might also find your drives less stressful, and perhaps more relaxing.
This one might be easier said than done, but it can make a huge difference. Learn to recognise when your attention is wavering and make a conscious effort to refocus. And if you find yourself getting drowsy, take a break as soon as possible. Have a coffee, get some fresh air, and stretch your legs.
You’ll return feeling refreshed and renewed, and ready to give the road your full attention.
If all drivers made a commitment to stay focused behind the wheel, the accident figures would likely plummet. You can’t change the behaviour of other drivers, but you can certainly do your bit.