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How To Avoid Driving Distractions

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Why driving while distracted is a big no no!

You’re touching up the eyeliner, trying to avoid ‘lettuce lap’ while eating a burger, or firing off a quick text to your mate while sitting at the lights – all no no’s when it comes to safe driving (and illegal). Why? Basically, humans are limited in the amount of info they can process at one time. Combine that fact with the multiple demands driving requires, and you can start to see why driving while distracted is just plain stupid.

How to Avoid Distracted Driving

The facts

Taking your eyes off the road for even just two seconds can have devastating consequences. In fact, because a vehicle travelling at 60 k’s an hour travels more than 33 metres in 2 seconds and an average person’s reaction time to an event is around 1.8 seconds, almost four seconds can pass before a distracted driver can react to a hazard. Do the math. That’s significantly increasing your risk of having a serious accident. And because the unexpected can happen at any time, even the smallest distraction can be deadly.

Despite this, drivers continue to disobey the rules with studies showing that 86% aged 18 to 24 admit to driving while distracted in the past year, with a terrifying 14% admitting to taking selfies while they were behind the wheel.

The result? Research done by the South Australia Motor Accident Commission shows that inattention is the primary cause of almost 30% of fatal crashes, and up to 45% of serious injury crashes every year in just South Australia alone.

Get real, people.

Before you go

Fiddling with stuff on the dash, in the glovebox or in the bag you’ve stashed passenger-side while you’re driving is highly distracting, so make sure you get prepped before you get in the car. That goes for your tunes as well. Load up the playlist before you leave and you’ll be a much more responsible (and audibly satisfied) human on the road.

Clean your windscreen, check your mirrors are adjusted correctly, get the air-con sorted and adjust all your controls to your liking including the radio and CD player before you take off.

Don’t know where the hell you’re going? Pre-set your GPS navigation, check traffic conditions for vehicle incidents and weather hazards and decide on the route you’re going to take BEFORE you leave.

Store any loose gear securely and make sure everything you need for the journey (water bottle, mid-journey snack) are placed somewhere you can easily reach them (while the car’s stationary of course).

Pigging out

Speaking of food, gorging yourself on a takeaway burger or an on-the-go breakfast substitute while driving, more than likely means you’re not paying full attention to what you’re doing. Along with being messy and difficult to manage (food spills are a major cause of distraction), eating on the road (no, not actually ON the road) may also mean you’re driving with only one hand on the wheel. On the other side of the coin, if you’re hungry you’re going to be doughy. Pre-load your nutrition outside of the car.

Yes, everyone loves a coffee buzz to start the day off with a bang, however a takeaway traveller is an all out no-go-zone, particularly because laps (yeow!) and tongues are the most likely bits to suffer from scalding hot spillages. Invest in a no-spill travel mug if you must indulge en route, or better still, get an insulated number that will keep your bevvy piping hot until you get to your destination.

So darn tired

Had a big night-before belter? Been smashed with uni work? Putting in the hours at your job? If you’re tired you’re obviously not on point. Combine that with distractions and the lofty level of concentration skills required to operate a moderately swift-moving vehicle, and you’re not going to be on your best driving behaviour.

Driving Tired and Fatigued

Statistics show that being overly tired can increase the risk of a crash by up to four times. And a study by the Monash University Accident Research Centre a few years ago also cited that fatigue caused 10.9% of the 340 serious casualty crashes in Victoria and NSW. Scarily 11.8% of those surveyed actually fell asleep at the wheel. Get some shut-eye before you take off. Simple.

Pets and passengers

Although they can make great travelling companions, unfortunately mortal and animal tagalongs can be annoyingly distracting. If you’re planning a journey with a kidlet or furry friend (although there are various restrictions for Learners Permit holders and P drivers so check your state’s regulations), make sure they’re belted in/secured (and suitably occupied) before you go.

Limit the number of passengers and level of activity in the car while you’re driving (again, get your facts right as in some states P drivers can’t carry more than one 16 to 22 year old passenger at any time), and keep the noise levels to a minimum (tame the doof doof) as it will just compromise your concentration levels.

Multi-tasking? Great! But not in the car

You probably spend a lot of time in your car. On a road trip crusade to the bush, checking out the surf on the weekend or just putting up with the snarl of the weekday morning commute – if you’re a driver you’ll use your car a lot. But your car’s not the place you should be practicing your multi-tasking skills.

Drinking Coffee When Driving

What NOT to do in the car!

Even the most experienced of drivers have difficulty processing two or more pieces of info at the same time, so no matter how well we think we can multitask, ultimately the performance of one task is always hampered by another.

In-car activities shouldn’t include stuff you’d do in your bedroom, whilst pottering about the kitchen, or in the privacy of your own bathroom (you KNOW what I mean). Keep the eating, flossing, picking, primping, flirting and social media exploration where it belongs.

Focus on the facts

You’re in charge of a vehicle and if you’re willing to indulge in all the fun stuff that goes along with being a driver, then yes, you need to accept the massive responsibility as well. Fully focus on your driving, actively scan the road, use your mirrors and watch out for pedestrians and cyclists.

Take your time getting to your destination (that’s the buzziest bit after all), take care during the squinty periods of dawn and dusk (sunnies! sun visor!) and beware of the added distractions that go along with the visual stimulation of driving at night.

Get your hand off it

There’s been lots of talk about it and lots of rules that go along with it. But basically, if you use your mobile phone (talking, texting, selfie-ing, even GPS’ing) while you’re driving you’ll eventually get caught.

And for good reason. Fiddling about with your apparatus of choice while you’re at the wheel can impair your ability to follow road rules and adhere to speed limits, it can limit reaction times, reduce your awareness and increase your mental workload (hello, stress and frustration). And studies have shown that using your phone while driving multiplies your risk of a serious crash by at least four and that it can be as risky as drink driving.

If that doesn’t deter you, perhaps a hefty fine or a license suspension will. Punishment differs in each state, but most charge a fine and will dock you a number of demerit points. Some states even enforce a double-demerit-deduction rule – a pretty clear sweetener towards losing your license altogether if you’re up for it.
Before you hit the road, turn off all your notifications, switch your phone to silent or flight mode and put it somewhere out of reach – even using your phone hands-free can be an accident-inducing distraction.

Need more motivation? Do your research – a number of industry and government websites offer some great advice and if you’re still not convinced, check out first-hand what happens when you’re not concentrating on what you should be doing when you’re driving (ie. driving, not other stuff).

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