Life is hectic and we are all extremely busy people, so it is no wonder we try to multi-task at every turn. However, there are a few important situations in life where focusing on the one task at hand is extremely important. Driving an 1,800 kilogram+ vehicle down the road should be on that list.
It would seem most Canadians agree. In fact, a 2013 survey commissioned by Allstate Canada, revealed that almost all drivers (97 per cent) perceive distracted driving negatively if done by other drivers. However, that same survey revealed that 90 per cent of Canadians also admitted to some kind of distraction when they were behind the wheel.
By now, we have all heard about the dangers of driving with distractions, and all provinces, and almost every territory, across the country have some form of distracted driving legislation in place to help deter drivers from multi-tasking behind the wheel; yet distracted driving continues to be a major issue on our roads, with some jurisdictions even claiming that driver distraction has overtaken impaired driving as the primary cause of collision.
So what gives? Why do so many people continue to drive when they are distracted?
I don’t know about you, but I hear excuses all the time: “I’m an excellent driver”; “I’ve been driving for years, I don’t even need to think about driving”; “I always talk on the phone while driving and I haven’t been in an accident yet!”
The thing is, it doesn’t matter how good each driver is, or whether or not they have been in an accident before. No driver can predict every move of other drivers, pedestrians, or cyclists around them and it only takes a moment for something to change or pop up on the road ahead. If driving with distractions, our reaction times will be slower.
A few facts to mull over:
- Driving while distracted is like driving after having consumed four beers.
- Taking your eyes off the road for five seconds while driving at 90 km/h is like driving the length of a football field completely blind.
- Drivers engaged in text messaging while driving are up to 23 times more likely to be involved in a crash or near crash compared with non-distracted drivers.
- Over the past few years, we’ve seen large increases in the number and severity of collisions on Canadian roads.
And it’s not just mobile phone use that’s to blame. A driver is distracted when doing anything other than focusing on driving.
There are four types of distraction:
- Visual — taking your eyes off the road
- Manual — taking your hands off the wheel
- Auditory — taking your ears away from driving-related sounds
- Cognitive — taking your mind off driving
Examples of distracted driving include talking on a mobile device (even if hands free your mind is distracted), changing a CD, using an MP3 Player or adjusting a GPS device, applying makeup, or being pre-occupied with other passengers.
Many examples even involve more than one type of distraction. Think about texting on your phone: you need to hold the phone and type (manual), you need to look to ensure you’re typing the right thing or when reading the response (visual), you’re thinking about your message, or what your friend just said (cognitive). That’s why texting is one of the worst driving distractions you can engage in, and why it is often a focus of distracted driving awareness campaigns – but that doesn’t mean other behaviours are not dangerous.
While it may be impossible to never have distractions when driving (something on the side of the road catches your eye, or your toddler has an unexpected meltdown in the back seat), it’s important to limit distractions as much as possible.
Here are few tips
- Keep your mobile phone on silent and out of reach. This may seem extreme, but it’s one of the best ways to avoid the temptation to look at your phone when driving. According to Matt Richtel, author of “A Deadly Wandering,” it’s in our primitive wiring to respond when that beep or buzz sounds from our phone. It’s like a tap on the shoulder, it’s hard for us to ignore.
- Make adjustments before you start moving. Put your seat in the right position, adjust mirrors, get comfortable, find your sunglasses and select your music (at a low volume) before you put the vehicle into drive.
- Park to eat. While you may want to jump back on the road with fast food in your lap, staying in the restaurant or the parking lot for a few extra minutes could help prevent a serious collision.
- Get directions before you leave. Trying to read a map or program a GPS while driving requires more attention than you can spare. If you need to change your destination while en route, pull over to update the directions.
- Limit passenger distractions. Passengers can be distracting. As a result, some provinces have graduated licensing rules that limit the number of passengers that are allowed with a younger driver. No matter your age, ask passengers to watch the road with you, and to be quiet if a risky situation arises. If travelling with kids, try to have activities within their reach in the back seat to keep them occupied and less distracting for you.
- Spread the word. Talk to your family and tell your neighbours and friends that distracted driving is not okay. If you’re a passenger in a vehicle where the driver is driving with distractions, speak up. Ask them to focus on their driving. After all, your life is in their hands.
- Be a good role model. If you are a parent/caregiver, you are the most important influence on your teen when it comes to learning to drive. This means you can make a big difference by being a good role model and a good coach. Talk to your teen drivers about safe driving practices, and consider creating a driving agreement with them.
Do you have more tips to add? Share them with us on twitter using our #justdrive hashtag. Together, we can make our roads safer.