Writing in the Autumn edition of Good Motoring, the member magazine of GEM Motoring Assist, road safety author Sandra Macdonald-Ames picked through the range of distractions that can compromise safety and offered some simple tips for eliminating them.
- Leave the phone alone. Unless it’s an emergency, you must not use your phone whilst driving (6 points, £200 fine). Consider putting it out of reach to remove the temptation. Younger drivers call the glove box the phone box. Switch the phone to silent and turn off the Bluetooth: this will prevent messages coming through, but it is still available in an emergency.
- Journey’s end. Satnavs are great for the last part of a journey if you have not been there before, but how about using Google Streetview before you go? This will give you a feel for the destination and where the turnings are, so it helps reduce stress as the route will feel familiar.
- Music presets. Choose your favourites in advance such as on your phone’s playlist, or preset your favourite radio stations. This ensures you don’t need to do any fiddling. Keep the volume down to a reasonable level for more awareness of what’s going on around you.
- The restaurant on wheels is closed. Have breakfast before you set off for work, not while you’re on the way. For longer trips, plan regular drinks breaks. Yes, cars have cup holders but you take a risk by choosing to eat and drink while you’re driving as well.
- Keep fresh and alert. We tend to look for distractions on long journeys to ease the boredom. Much better to make regular stops of at least 15 minutes every two hours or 100 miles. Get some fresh air by walking around, have some coffee or light refreshments and enjoy a short power nap.
- Occupy your passengers. If you’re travelling with young children, make sure there is plenty to keep them occupied. Older children should be more able to understand the risks, so you can use them as a second pair of eyes. This helps teenagers to develop hazard perception skills early.
“Where drivers divide their attention between the main task of driving and a secondary, distracting task, there will be a negative effect on driving performance,” Sandra Macdonald-Ames said. “Sensible lane choice can disappear, reactions are slowed, observations become more fixed, all-round scanning stops, drivers get too close up behind others and find it hard to keep speeds consistent. They feel less in control of the environment, they are more likely to become stressed, and this can lead to tiredness and/or anger.
But the good news is that we can banish just about any distraction, as long as we want to. This is best achieved through straightforward self-discipline and sensible journey planning.”