Driving while distracted is highly dangerous, and taking your attention off the road is a sure fire way to become the cause or victim of an accident. Distracted driving is classified into three types:
- Visual: When you take your eyes off the road
- Manual: When you remove your hands from the wheel
- Cognitive: When your mind is not focused on driving
You can be distracted by any number of things – mobile phones, eating, fiddling with the radio or other passengers. Even your sat nav, designed to help you in your car, can be a dangerous distraction. Perhaps the most dangerous thing to do is texting, because all three of the distraction types come into play. Studies have shown that a driver performing a secondary task while driving is two to three times more likely to have an accident.
You’ll hear plenty of excuses for not keeping 100% focused on the road. Many people simply don’t believe that they couldn’t be in control, or that their particular distraction isn’t very dangerous. Studies in a simulator have proven that this is not the case though, with 98% of drivers unable to multi task without a massive deterioration in their driving concentration.
While there are some solutions which claim to help reduce distractions at the wheel, such as a hands free kits for mobile phones, they still don’t eliminate the problem of distracted driving.
Research invalidates these claims, because while the driver may not be manually distracted by holding the phone, they’re still cognitively distracted by having a conversation. Drivers on a phone simply have longer reaction times, and worse speed control.
Brain scans have even shown that the brain is less visually attentive when the driver uses a hands free kit, meaning that hands free calling is a triple threat in the same way as texting.
Outside of technology, the next biggest distraction is eating. You double your chances of having an accident if you eat behind the wheel, with the risk factor higher for messy foods, foods which you need to unwrap, or hot food. Reaction times slow by 44%, and you can probably imagine the likelihood of an accident if you’re driving with just one hand on the wheel while the other keeps hold of that sandwich or coffee cup.
Here are some worrying statistics surrounding young people and distracted driving in the UK:
16% of male drivers under 25 have had an accident as a result of using a phone
21% of UK drivers admitted to talking on a phone when they were driving
33% of Facebook users have used the mobile app while driving
44% of young UK drivers have sent a text while driving
58% of drivers under 25 think phone apps make an accident more likely
62% have read a text while driving
According to Brake, the road safety charity, 22% of UK accidents are caused by distracted drivers, and all of these accidents are preventable if the driver takes steps to prevent the distraction in the first place. Be a safer driver, and keep your eyes, mind and concentration on the road when you step into your vehicle.