The cost of distraction when driving

The cost of distraction when driving

The more ingrained an activity becomes in our daily lives, the less we seem able to think critically about the way we carry out that activity and, as a consequence, the harder we find it to pick up on the things we could – to put it sensitively – perhaps do a little better.

Basically, when doing those things we do most frequently, we’re more likely to succumb to a tendency to ‘zone out’ or switch to autopilot. That this happens is well known. That’s because it happens all the time.

For example, we typically don’t think much about the way we walk, how we talk, or the way we hold our posture when sitting. Fortunately, in the main, the consequences of a fleeting lapse of concentration whilst walking, talking or sitting down are typically not too bad.

Then there’s driving. Unfortunately, when turning on the ignition, many of us are also guilty of switching over to our in-built ‘autopilot’ mode.

Part of the problem stems from the fact that in today’s society, driving has become such a part of daily life that, for huge numbers of people, it feels almost as natural as simply walking or talking. This problem is compounded when linked to another activity which is becoming increasingly commonplace – using our mobile phones in order to stay ‘connected’, wherever we happen to be.

However, unlike when sitting and chatting, the problem with losing concentration whilst behind the wheel is that the outcome can be deadly.

Getting distracted can have serious repercussions. According to the Department of Transport’s Think! campaign, you’re four times more likely to crash if you use a mobile phone while driving. Reaction times for drivers using a phone are around 50 per cent slower than normal driving and even careful drivers can be distracted by a call or text. (And let’s not forget that it is illegal to use a hand-held mobile when driving on the road).

Of course mobile phone use is not the only problem here, and there are many other ways drivers come to ‘take their eye off the ball’. We all know that safe driving requires serious concentration. And we all know the things we shouldn’t do whilst behind the wheel. But does that mean we don’t – or won’t do them? Take the list below:

  • Don’t listen to loud music
  • Don’t try to read maps
  • Don’t try to change a CD or tuning in a radio
  • Don’t eat or drink whilst behind the wheel
  • Don’t smoke
  • Don’t argue with passengers
  • Don’t use a hand-held mobile phone

Although there may be some people who can honestly say that they’ve never committed any of the driving misdemeanours listed above, my guess is that an overwhelming majority of drivers would have – and continue to do so on a regular basis.

So why do we do it regardless? We know what not to do, and we know that the stakes are high, but still people will check their phone or take a quick peek at a road atlas spread out on the passenger seat. The reason is that we think that “it won’t happen to me” – but nobody ever changed a CD or quickly read a text message thinking that it would probably lead to a crash.

Driving without due care and attention can kill. Maybe next time you think about doing something on the list above whilst out on the road it would be sensible to think again.

At Tadea’s Effective Transport Solutions one unit of our training specialises in driver distraction, what it is, what the consequences can be and how to avoid it.  Once you’ve been made aware of the simple everyday actions that constitute distraction you’ll quickly adapt your behaviour behind the wheel.

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