The dangers of distracted driving

When you hear the phrase “distracted driving” it’s likely you picture a young adult checking social media on their phone while on the road – and you’d be right in that this is very dangerous, however it’s not just young people and it’s not just phones that create a risk. Anything that takes away all of your attention from driving is a distraction. Distracted driving has joined alcohol and speeding as leading factors in car crashes that cause fatalities and serious injuries.

The main types of distractions are:

  • Visual (reading maps/navigation devices, looking around at things unrelated to driving)
  • Manual (typing, smoking, eating, drinking, reaching for an object)
  • Cognitive (thinking about something else, conversations with passengers or on the phone)
  • Auditory (listening to someone on the phone, music and noises outside the vehicle.

 
Some research and statistics we gathered are:

  • In 2015, out of 1,469 fatal crashes in Britain, the police recorded 400 incidences of the contributory factor of “failure to look” and a further 101 incidences of the contributory factors of distracted driving.
  • Out of 11,000 drivers observed in a study on roads in St Albans, 1 in 6 were found to be engaged in a distracting activity, such as smoking or talking on a phone or to a passenger. The study found younger drivers more likely to be engaged in distracting activities.
  • A recent survey by Brake and Direct Line showed that a third of drivers admit to eating at the wheel and one in 10 suffered a near-miss because they were distracted by food while driving.
  • There is academic evidence that drivers cannot divide their attention between driving and a secondary task without significantly reducing their driving performance.
  • 58% of 17-25 year olds agreed that smartphones increase distraction at the wheel.
  • 1 in 6 male drivers under 25 has crashed due to mobile distractions.
  • 62% of young drivers have read a text while driving, and 44% have sent one.

 
Many drivers carry out distracting activities without realising the extra risk that it generates. You might not think eating or changing a CD is a risk, and you’d be right in that it’s not a large one, but it does increase your chances of an accident. This being said, some level of distraction is unavoidable, particularly on long journeys. Before engaging in an activity while driving, ask yourself “will this be distracting?” and think about how you would feel if you saw another road user doing the same thing.

Some precautions to take are:

  • Programme in your navigation device before you depart and remember that temporarily going the wrong way is not as bad as risking a collision because you were focused on the map and not the road.
  • Silence your mobile device and keep it out of your reach. If you need to make or receive a call, pull over before you do so.
  • Make a playlist or find a radio station you’re happy to stick with before you leave so you won’t need to change the music, and avoid playing it too loudly.
  • Speak up if you’re a passenger and the driver seems distracted. Offer to take over the wheel if possible.
  • If you need to do something distracting, pull over. A faster journey isn’t worth the danger of multitasking.
  • Avoid eating or drinking. Take breaks to allow yourself time for food.
  • Review safe driving policy to ensure that you are fully aware of the best practices when it comes to road safety and know what to do in an emergency.

 
Distracted drivers can be charged with a range of offences including:

  • Dangerous Driving
  • Careless and Inconsiderate Driving
  • Failure to Be in Proper Control of the Vehicle
  • Driving without Due Care and Attention

 
Construction and Use Regulations prevent the use of certain types of technology in vehicles like hand-held mobiles. When a driver is at work, their employer also has a responsibility towards the safety of their employees and the people they share the road with, and need to put in place all ‘reasonably practicable’ safety measures on work related journeys. This includes making sure that drivers are aware of the dangers of distraction, are trained to deal with it, and are trained in the safe use of any in-vehicle technology which may cause a distraction.

How distracted driving can affect your insurance:

If you have an accident and it’s your fault, your premium is likely to increase on your next insurance renewal. More accidents also cause insurance companies to increase general car insurance premiums. Insurance is based on distributing losses among the population, so if the losses or claims start to increase, so will the rates. It’s in all our best interests to stop distracted driving.