How to Stay Safe and Avoid Driving Distractions

Distractions when driving

Distracted driving has become endemic among the motoring population, particularly since the use of mobile phones has become so common. But that’s not all that’s causing the distractions. A Monash University Accident Research Centre (MUARC) study revealed that drivers falling asleep caused 11.8 per cent of car crashes, intoxicated drivers caused 13.5 per cent and passenger interactions caused 3.2 per cent.

The study also explained that the most common causes of reduced attention were due to intoxication, fatigue and diverted attention. Other distractions were passenger interaction, an animal or insect in the vehicle, changing the CD or radio station, adjusting vehicle systems, looking at vehicle systems and searching for objects.

Stay alive and avoid fines

A significant reason for motorists to avoid distracted driving due to the use of a mobile phone is a hefty fine combined with demerit points, all designed to keep people alive. If you must have your phone switched on and available while driving, then invest in appropriate cradles or mounts that avoid you having to locate and physically pick up your phone when you should be watching the road.

If you must have your phone switched on and available while driving, then invest in appropriate cradles or mounts that avoid you having to locate and physically pick up your phone when you should be watching the road.

Inexperienced drivers need to apply even more focus

Mobile phones are major sources of distraction for young drivers, especially as these drivers are still building experience. According to Vic Roads: “Young drivers are over-represented in serious road crashes”. In fact, in some states, Learner, P1 and P2 drivers are not permitted to use a mobile phone – even if on hands-free – for any function while driving.

Cool tech tip! Download the Road Mode app to silence incoming calls and text messages while driving. It sends an automated message to those who call or text, letting them know you are driving and can’t respond.

Can you use mobile phone-based GPS navigation while driving?

The laws for this vary depending on the state or territory and relate to navigation functions on smartphones, smart watches, GPS systems and other devices. The Australian Mobile Telecommunications Association (AMTA) supports changes to the Australian Road Rules (model laws for Australian states and territories) for mobile GPS to reduce the number of incidents of distracted driving. By far, the best way to remain safe while using any GPS navigation is to rely on the voice commands and not keep looking at the device. When entering the information on the GPS, it’s best to do so before turning on the ignition, or before starting to drive. If you need to update your request, pull over safely and park the car.

Tired drivers are hazardous on the roads

When you’re tired, your attention span and reflexes are far less effective than if you drive when fresh. It’s never wise to drive if you have any kind of fatigue including physical exhaustion. Sleep or rest first, have someone else drive instead or reconsider the journey.

The drive-thru culture is causing driver distractions

There are now more drive-thru food outlets than ever before and they are rapidly increasing in number. How many times have you munched on your hot fries or taken a sip of your scorching hot coffee while driving? Dropping hot or cold food in your lap, spilling your drink or having to change gears between bites are all incredibly dangerous. Even if you take food or drinks with you from home, the same hazards apply.

Aim for a calm environment inside the car

Loud, up tempo music and screaming kids do not make for good focus when driving. Keep your music at a reasonable volume or turn it off altogether if you find yourself becoming distracted, especially while you experience heavy traffic, bad weather or are on unfamiliar roads. When children misbehave or simply demand your attention because they’re tired, curious or energetic, the safest thing to do is pull over and attend to their needs before carrying on. Give small children activities to keep them busy but ensure that there are no choking or other hazards involved.

Preening and grooming is best done in private

Nobody wants to watch you floss your teeth or trim your beard in traffic! It’s astonishing how many motorists will try to catch up on their personal grooming on their way to work or a social event. Too many women apply lipstick and mascara and do their hair while men will check their teeth in the mirror or dress or undress to varying degrees. Make the time to do these things in a more appropriate location and avoid the embarrassment of lipstick smeared over your forehead or worse and the risk of having an accident because you were five minutes late.

Keep pets safe and well restrained for their safety as well

Always use a pet restraint system, carrier or a cage or closed (and well ventilated) box to transport animals in your vehicle. Allowing them to move about freely can be a huge distraction and is unlawful in some Australian jurisdictions.

Check your car for uninvited passengers before driving

It’s surprising how distracting a mosquito or fly can be when you’re watching the road. Also, because this is Australia, it’s not unheard of to find a snake has found its way into a car! If either of these occurrences happens to you, pull over. For insects, simply open the windows and shoo it out. For more serious situations, calmly get out of the car, close the door and call an expert for help.

Allowing yourself to be distracted by anything while driving can be catastrophic for you, your passengers and the general public. Focus on the road ahead and consider enjoying the concept of spending the time with just your thoughts instead of being constantly stimulated by music, podcasts, news, radio chatter and phone calls.

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