Don’t be driven to distraction…

Attention munching smartphones to bickering kids, we’re being driven to distraction by a multi-tasking modern-day world – making it ever more important to keep our eyes and brain fixed on the road ahead. Read the Crawley Down Group’s safe driving guide to ensure you’re not driven to distraction…

Have you got a child seat in the back of your car? Then the bad news is you’re at serious risk of being distracted while driving. Research by the Institute of Advanced Motorists has revealed kids top the list of reasons most likely to disturb your driving – but it’s not just unruly offspring causing problems.

Diversion to danger

There were 195,723 accidents in the UK during 2012, with a staggering 80% of them attributable to some form of driver distraction. A sobering fact from the police also reveals that becoming sidetracked behind the wheel contributes to around 105 deaths each year on UK roads.

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Here are the facts you need to know when getting behind the wheel – and why you should always be vigilant…

Children: Travelling with kids in the car is 12 times more distracting than talking on a mobile phone. Research by the Monash University research centre in Melbourne revealed that during a 16-minute car journey with children in the car, a driver will take their eyes off the road to check or speak to the kids for an average of three minutes and 22 seconds – equivalent to driving more than 1.5 miles with your eyes shut.

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Mobile phones: We all know the dangers, but it’s worth repeating that using a mobile phone while driving is illegal – and leaves you four times more likely to have an accident. Using a hands-free set is just as distracting, too. Long jail sentences await those who crash and injure people while on the phone.

Texting: Sending an sms message while driving? Don’t count on being around to receive the reply! Texting behind the wheel slows reaction times by an average of 35% for young drivers and drastically more for older motorists. This makes sending a text message more dangerous than drink- and drug-driving – leaving drivers 23 times more likely to have an accident.

Voice-to-text apps: Despite being designed to make driving safer, using voice-to-text apps to read and send messages etc, can double drivers’ reaction times. The false sense of security – and manually correcting dubious translations – is blamed.

Eating and drinking: More than 60% of drivers admitting eating behind the wheel in a recent survey by safety charity Brake – prompting it to call for increased fines for those caught dining as they drive. Not surprising, when research reveals eating at the wheel can slow reaction times by 44%.

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Daydreaming: Musing how you’d rather be glugging gluhwein in the French Alps than chugging up the M23 on a rainy Monday morning? Chances are you could soon be enjoying a break alright – in the local hospital… A survey of drivers involved in a road accident found 52% admitted they’d been daydreaming prior to having the smash.

Tiredness: Driving while tired will make you more susceptible to distractions, which is why one in five deaths on major roads can be attributed to it.

Pets: Research suggests that less than 20% of drivers restrain their pets while driving – and giving a large dog free roam of your car will hugely increase your odds of becoming distracted and causing an accident. Don’t let your best friend drive without a seatbelt, buy a pet restraint and everyone will be a lot safer while you’re on the road.

Passengers: Driving with passengers can vastly increase your risk of being involved in a distraction-related accident. Keeping conversation to a minimum can help cut the risk that suggests you’re 60% more likely to have a bump if you’re carrying passengers.

Exterior distractions: This can cover anything from road traffic accidents to billboards adorned with semi-clad models advertising their wares. Be wary of getting in cars with male drivers, too; nearly 25% of men admit to being distracted by attractive pedestrians – compared with just 3% of women at the wheel.

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Music: Yes, even listening to music can end in disaster. Drivers playing ‘fast’ music of 120 beats per minute (bpm) or more are twice as likely to crash as those with more sedate tastes. Try swapping your DJ shrapnel CD for something by Celine Dion, perhaps?

Most distracting apps

Young drivers are particularly at risk from attention-munching apps. Here’s a list from insurer Ingenie outlining the most distracting apps that drivers should disable while driving.

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Types of distraction

Technology, tight schedules and making more car journeys mean there are myriad distractions constantly trying to tempt our eyes and attention from the road ahead. Understanding the different types of distraction will help keep us on the straight and narrow.

Visual distraction: This occurs when objects or events impair the driver’s concentration – encouraging it to wander from the road ahead. Visual distractions are usually most serious in complex areas, such as cities and motorways, where there’s lots of fast-moving information for the brain to process – leaving the driver less able to identify serious hazards. Less demanding situations also pose risks, with drivers’ minds 50% more likely to wander from the road to surrounding objects or scenery

Beat it by… Reducing speed, concentrating on the road – and giving your brain more time to do its job.

Cognitive distraction: This is where motorists think of something not related to driving the vehicle… that’s daydreaming to me and you. Studies reveal that a driver’s visual field narrows while behind the wheel, so thinking about other subjects results in more time staring straight ahead. This ‘tunnel vision’ means the driver spends less time looking in mirrors and scanning for hazards.

Beat it by… Leaving your daydreaming or problems at home. It’s a safe bet that crashing your car will spoil your plans, or make problems even worse – so poke your head out of that tunnel and take a look around.

Biomechanical distraction: This is boffin-like speak for doing something physical behind the wheel that’s not related to driving the car – such as reaching for something, or holding an object such as a cup of coffee. This will leave the driver less able to anticipate hazards – or react to them.

Beat it by… Keeping your hands on the wheel and waiting until you stop to drink that latte, or reattach the sat-nav that’s just fallen off your windscreen.

Auditory distraction This is when sound stops the driver from making the best use of their hearing. From warring kids on the backseat to your favourite CD, you’re more at risk of having – or causing an accident.

Beat it by… Keeping the volume turned down on noise in your car is essential for your wellbeing. In a test, with two children in the back of car, arguing over who gets to play with an iPad, we found the commotion hit a peak of 99dB – equivalent to having a motorcycle revving on the back seat. Not the recommended soundtrack for safe driving.

Did you know… Concerns about driving distractions were raised when windscreen wipers were first introduced – nervous drivers were worried they’d be hypnotised by the rhythmic, repetitive movement as the blades swept back and forth across the screen.

While you were away…
Just a brief glance to the kids on the backseat can leave you driving ‘blind’ for terrifying distances. Here’s how far you’ll have travelled while you were ‘away’ from the screen in just two seconds.

Speed Time distracted Distance travelled Equivalent to…
25mph 2.0 seconds 22.2 metres 5.5 Skoda Fabias in a row
30mph 2.0 seconds 27.8 metres 7 Skoda Fabias in a row
38mph 2.0 seconds 33.3 metres 8 Skoda Fabias in a row
62mph 2.0 seconds 56.0 metres 14 Skoda Fabias in a row

Technology to beat distraction

Avoid using all apps or internet-connected in-car technology altogether while driving, but there are some great safety systems to help counter the risk of distraction for drivers. Here are just a few you should consider…

Head-up display: Next time you’re browsing the forecourt, look out for a model with head-up technology. This projects data such as speed onto the lower-reaches of the car’s windscreen – cutting the amount of time your eyes are diverted from the road.

Attention assist systems: This tech uses sensors to monitor your driving behaviour and will detect if you are becoming drowsy or distracted – triggering alarms if it becomes concerned. Look out for it on the options list.

Lane departure warning systems: Using a small camera – usually mounted on the rear-view mirror – this system warns drivers if they become distracted and start to veer out of the lane they’re travelling in.

Blind-spot detection: Changing lanes while distracted can have tragic consequences, but this system can help prevent accidents by warning drivers of vehicles hiding in the car’s blind-spot. Find it on the options list.

Collision avoidance: Systems, such as Skoda’s Front Assist, use radar technology to detect if a collision with a vehicle or large object is likely. If the driver’s distracted, this will issue a warning, then automatically apply the brakes if no action is taken and a collision deemed imminent.

Speak to the Crawley Down Group for more information on speccing your new car with the best safety kit.

So, next time you’re heading out for a drive… give the kids a large gobstopper, buckle up the dog, turn off the mobile and put something very slow (and possibly a little dull) on the stereo. You should be just fine.

Be safe  out there…

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