2. Distracted Driving

Just as defensive driving exists to help prevent you from running into major problems, a polar opposite is also lurking out there, ready to rear its head – distracted driving. It’s this type of approach on the roads which leads to potentially deadly accidents.

What is distracted driving?

In brief, distracted driving is where a person’s attention is drawn away from the road as a result of a secondary activity which doesn’t relate to the road. There are several ways in which someone could become distracted, but the primary causes are:

  • Talking on a mobile phone
  • Eating and drinking
  • Reading – even maps fall under this remit
  • Watching a screen or looking at a photo
  • Changing a CD in your car or swapping radio channels

Some of these may sound like common and everyday occurrences while driving (and they are), but they can have a potentially deadly impact on road safety. To really understand just how important it is to avoid distracted driving, consider some of the following eye-opening statistics:

  • Five seconds is the average amount of time your eyes are away from the road when driving distracted. This is enough time to have driven the entire length of a football pitch (effectively blindfolded)
  • In 2015, a staggering 501 of the 1,469 fatal crashes on the road were found to have been caused by a “failure to look” as a result of distracted driving
  • When 11,000 people were observed during a study on roads in St Albans, 1,833 were found to have exhibited signs of distraction behind the wheel – such as talking to a passenger, using a phone or even smoking. Younger drivers were more susceptible to this
  • A survey by Direct Line revealed as many as one in three people were found to be eating behind the wheel of a car

With so many distracted drivers on the road, and over a third of annual fatal crashes coming as a result of this, it‘s imperative you do whatever you can to avoid falling into the trap of taking your attention off the road. Practicing defensive driving is a clever way of breaking habits of distraction.

What are the different types of distracted driving?

Distracted driving is the all-encompassing term given to losing concentration on the road, but it can actually be separated into three different categories.

1)Manual – these are distractions where a physical action has resulted in you taking your hands off the wheel or your eyes off the road. Common types of manual distractions include things like:

  • Eating and drinking
  • Smoking or lighting a cigarette
  • Looking for something in a car
  • Adjusting a seatbelt or the radio

2)Visual – this type of distraction occurs when something happens which causes your eyes to divert from where they should be focused. You’ll be distracted visually when:

  • Looking for something in your car (potentially on the floor)
  • Checking or adjusting your GPS system
  • Changing your temperature control or radio
  • Looking at a view or another crash on the road
  • Doing your make-up or checking how you look in the mirror

3)Cognitive – with this type of error, it comes about as a result of you mentally losing focus. You’ll find this happening when you:

  • Talk to another passenger or driver in separate car
  • Are under the influence of drugs or alcohol
  • Have failed to get enough sleep the night before
  • Day dreaming

When it comes to the three types of driving distractions, there’s one activity which unfortunately ticks every box – using your mobile phone. It’s little surprise such heavy attention has been turned towards trying to ban the use of mobiles while driving in recent years, with this distraction easily the most dangerous for road users.

Using a mobile distracts you:

  • Manually – because you are playing with your handheld device instead of holding the wheel
  • Visually – because you’re looking at the screen and not where you should be
  • Cognitively – because your mind is being occupied with whatever it is you’re looking at on your mobile phone