Imagine yourself rolling steadily at moderate speed, trying to navigate your way through the usual early morning traffic build-up, then beeep! your phone starts ringing. It’s probably your boss, a call you have been expecting. It can’t wait. You struggle to take the phone out of your pocket as you hold the steering wheel with one hand. You get distracted momentarily, having to share your visual, manual and cognitive abilities to carry out more than one task at a time.
And that’s just one instance, other times, you may be browsing online, playing a game, or sending a quick text.
But no matter how good you may be at the wheel, the few seconds you aren’t fully concentrating on the road puts you and other road users at great risk.
Researchers have found that operating a hand device while driving can be more distracting than driving under the influence of alc0h0l, as it makes a driver more likely to take his eyes off of the road.
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But while drink-driving receives significant media attention, the dangers of distracted driving have not been ripped bare, at least not as it should.
Despite the fact that many countries have laws that penalise drivers who use their mobile device while driving, a 2018 research has shown that one in five drivers still use their mobile phone while on a cruise.
That sums up to millions of people using distracting hand-held devices while driving, and putting themselves and other road users at risk.
But distracted driving is more than just using a mobile device while on a cruise
There are many other distractions that can take your focus and concentration away from the road while you drive. Other examples include;
- Drinking while driving
- Eating while driving
- Having Your Earbuds In
- Talking on the phone
- Talking too much
- Playing with friends or the kids
- Kissing while driving
- Grooming Yourself While driving
- Pets In The Car.
- Arguing with your partner when driving
- Adjusting your GPS.
- Staring at passers on the sidewalk..
And many more.
These distractions have been categorized into three namely; visual, manual and cognitive distractions.
Visual distractions cause you to take your eyes momentarily off the road. One example is looking at your satnav or staring at pedestrians on the sidewalk.
Car manufacturers have been working to position satnavs and information screens as high on the dashboard as possible to minimise the distance your eyes have to travel.
Manual distractions involve taking your hands off of the steering wheel for any reason whatsoever. Trying to pick a call, eating while driving or drinking are examples of this.
Manual distractions are the most common type of distractions, as they can be as simple as putting on your safety belt while on a cruise, changing a radio station or adjusting the air-conditioning.
Cognitive distractions are the least obvious, yet the most dangerous of the three groups. Sometimes while driving, you may get deep in your thoughts that you momentarily forget that you are the captain of the cruise ship.
This category of distractions can be anything from daydreaming to having a conversation with your passengers, and it’s something that almost every driver would have to admit they have done on many occasions.
What makes the use of a mobile phone while driving so dangerous is that, it is an example of all three categories at once. When You manually operate your phone (manual distraction), you look at the screen (visual distraction) and concentrate (cognitive distraction) on the phone rather than the road ahead.
Another challenge is the move by some car manufacturers towards touchscreen infotainments systems. Touchscreens require significantly more attention from the user to use as the buttons are not in one fixed position and there is no real haptic feedback to know if you have successfully pressed the right button.
The driver needs to look carefully to see where he is touching which requires him to take his hand off the wheel and eyes off the road for a while.
And because the car is in motion and the button positions are not fixed, it will require a considerable cognitive effort compared to pushing physical buttons.
Don’t drive when distracted and don’t be distracted while driving
Yes, you have been driving and talking on the phone since 1980 but never had a fiery car crash. Really, that’s an achievement. But it still doesn’t change the fact that you can’t prioritise your attention on your driving while you are doing something else at the same time.
Accidents are called ‘accidents’ because they happen when you least expect. And if something happens in front of you while your focus is elsewhere, it will take more time for you to react and appropriately.
Remember, If your eyes are off the road, how will you be able to see what is happening? If your hands are off the wheel, how will you be able to react in time to avoid the collision?
Don’t drive when you are distracted, and don’t distract yourself while driving. Keep yourself and others safe.