Research highlights the dangers of driver distraction

Sat navs are supposed to make driving easier, but do they actually make driving safer? Well, according to research conducted by road safety charity Brake and Direct Line, not necessarily.

The Brake/Direct Line survey found that 7 per cent of drivers have had a near miss whilst distracted by a sat nav in occurrences which led to the driver having to swerve or brake suddenly to avoid a hazard. This figure rose to 11 per cent in drivers aged 17 – 24.

It is safe to say that sat navs may have completely changed the way we drive – however, it must be stressed that they are to be used with caution. There are many benefits associated with the use of the technology – primarily relating to the fact that having a voice-based system of navigation means that drivers are able to receive directions without having to take their eyes off the road to look at a map.

However, issues relating to the correcting of programming mistakes whilst at the wheel is a significant cause for concern and a factor which is increasing the levels of danger on our roads.

Can you say you’ve never fiddled around with a sat nav whilst on the road? It is certainly an easy temptation to succumb to. The easy way to avoid this danger is to make sure that, if using a sat nav, that it is programmed before setting off on your journey and not adjusted whilst actually driving. An easy way to ensure that you get the best of what is a very useful piece of kit, whist avoiding any pitfalls associated with its use.

But of course there are plenty of other potential sources of driver distraction to contend with alongside the negligent use of sat navs. According to Brake, other issues include:

Eating and Drinking – research has found that drivers eating or drinking at the wheel are twice as likely to crash, and increases reaction times by up to 44 per cent.

Smoking – finding and lighting a cigarette whilst driving can cause distraction, and smoke can impair driver vision. Dealing with falling ash also causes attention to wander from the road.

Listening to loud music – doing do may slow driver reaction times and can also encourage aggressive driving. Adjusting stereos can also be very dangerous.

Using mobile phones – as well known about as it is still commonly seen, using a mobile phone at the wheel can reduce reaction times by up to 50 per cent.

In-vehicle technology – voice operated controls in some cars can lead to driver distraction and facilities such as cruise control can lead to lapses in concentration.

If we can work to tackle the problem of driver distraction, we can make significant steps to making our roads and communities much safer places to be. In the main, the causes of these distractions are simple to counteract – however, at the end of the day, the onus falls predominantly on the person behind the wheel and the decisions they take.

If you would like some support with improving your driver safety, you could always sign up for the Brake pledge – perhaps consider it a slightly delayed New Year’s resolution.

To find out more about boosting driver safety, visit the Effective Transport Solutions website.