Driver distraction is a major cause of motor vehicle crashes. It is at least as serious as drink driving and excessive speeding.
Any activity that distracts drivers or competes for their attention while driving, has the potential to degrade driving performance and has serious consequences for road safety.
Visual distractions - when drivers take their eyes off the road situation they create a serious risk. Whether it is changing the climate or sound system controls, reading a street directory, checking mobile messages or being distracted by activities outside the car such as a road accident, all take your attention away from your driving.
Remember if you are leaving a three second gap and your vision is distracted for one second, you no longer have enough crash avoidance space. When you glance back to the road you will only have enough time to see what you are going to hit!
Physical distractions - how often do you take your hands off the steering wheel while driving? When we squeeze in a quick bite to eat on our way to an appointment, use a hand-held mobile phone or change the radio station we significantly reduce our ability to respond to changes in driving conditions.
Safe driving requires that you have two hands on the wheel at all times.
Cognitive distractions - is your mind on the job when you are driving? When we allow ourselves to become involved in heated discussions with our passengers, speak on the phone or become engrossed in a radio program, we reduce our ability to focus adequately on the complex demands of driving.
Even on an open stretch of quiet country road we may be required to act quickly when an animal runs across our path or we blow a tyre. If we are focused, our reaction times are likely to be better and the risk of crashing is reduced.
Mobile phones - mobile phone use imposes physical, visual and cognitive (mental) demands on the driver. Studies have found that using a hands-free phone while driving is no safer than using a hand-held phone.
Mobile phone use while driving can increase the risk of being involved in a collision by up to four times. Research suggests that both the physical and cognitive distraction caused by using mobile phones while driving can significantly impair a driver's visual search patterns, reaction times, decision-making processes and their ability to maintain speed, throttle control and lateral position on the road.
If you must take a call, the safest option is to pull over. If you are unable to do this try to keep your conversations brief. Alternatively, let the call go to voice mail and respond once you arrive at your destination.