Driven to distraction: How to keep your eyes on the road

Hi all! It’s newbie driver Kate again, and I’m back with my latest set of tips for young road users.

This month, I learned that anywhere up to 30% of accidents in the EU are at least partly caused by distracted drivers! That really startled me, and when I read into it, I realised that I’ve also inadvertently indulged in some of the primary causes. Many of them relate specifically to young drivers, who it turns out are at most risk of taking their eyes off the road.

These are some of the biggest distractions that us young drivers face on the roads:

Passengers

If you have friends like mine, chances are there will always be one that’s on the lookout for a lift. I don’t mind – in fact, I enjoy the company – but I’ve started to realise that it’s much easier to concentrate when I’m on my own.

I found some research that said 3.2% of crashes were caused by passenger distraction. It might not sound like very many, but the annoyance factor can be much greater than other potential distractions. When surveyed, drivers stated that their top three annoyances were leaving a mess behind (40%), backseat driving (34%) and bad directions (27%).

Mobile devices

If the signal cuts out or battery dies and I’m left without my phone, I start to get the jitters. I’m not proud of it, and I never act on it, but I do get tempted to check social media even when behind the wheel. And, it looks like I’m not alone. While 89% of adults in the UK know there is a penalty for using your mobile when driving (even in stationary traffic), just 47% know what the penalty is.

Loud music

I love to put on something with a real beat to get me going in the morning. However, it’s a habit that it looks like I’m going to have to break. Research from Canada found that physical or mental tasks took 20% longer to perform when listening to loud music (above 95 decibels), which could be a real risk on the roads.

Unfortunately for me, distraction rates increase massively if you’re listening to something up-tempo, with twice as many accidents recorded in these conditions compared to people listening to something more relaxed. Apparently, anything over 60bpm causes the heart rate to increase, raising blood pressure and doubling the number of people who skipped red lights under test conditions.

Inexperience

Inexperience isn’t a distraction in and of itself. But, inexperienced drivers (or, drivers who have just lost the immediate post-test fear to be more precise) are much more likely to carry out risky secondary tasks while driving. The numbers back this up, with 14% of non-serious accidents attributed to 17 – 20 year olds, even though they only make up 6.4% of motorists.

How to avoid becoming distracted behind the wheel

So, that’s enough about all the potential distractions that we young drivers face. Here are my top 10 tips to help you keep your eyes on the road:

  • Think of driving as an active, rather than a passive activity. Keep scanning the road, check your blind spot and mirrors with every manoeuvre.
  • Make sure everything is securely stored. Whether it’s a pet, parcel or packet of crisps, it will distract you if it starts rattling around in the cabin.
  • Prepare everything before you set off; adjust your mirrors, set your sat nav, sound system and climate control so that you don’t need to fiddle about when it really matters.
  • Finish all your personal grooming before you leave! It might sound obvious, but think of all the times you’ve seen someone putting on their make up or adjusting their tie when driving.
  • Bring the right kinds of food. We all get peckish on long drives, but wiping up Big Mac sauce could be a major distraction. Bring something easy like a cereal bar instead.
  • Keep your phone out of arm’s reach. Unless you’re using it as a sat nav or have voice activated controls set up, there’s really no need to be just inches away from your phone.
  • Make passengers help out. To stop them getting bored and distracting you, make them the navigator or let them play DJ so you can focus on the road.
  • Don’t drive tired. The combination trying to stay awake and rushing to get home before you inevitably doze off is a dangerous one. Switch drivers or pull off and take a power nap.
  • Keep any kids calm. If you’re ferrying younger siblings around, make sure they’re buckled in properly and teach them to respect that you need to focus when driving. If that fails, give them an iPad loaded with cartoons.
  • Turn the music down. Turn your car into an island of tranquility. You’re not in an action movie, so why not just enjoy a little quiet time before you reach your destination?

If something does come up that you absolutely can’t deal with later, the golden rule is to find a safe place to pull off and sort it out there.

I’ve learnt a lot while researching these tips, and there are certainly plenty of lessons for me to learn too. Take it one step at a time and you could reduce distractions and stay safer on the roads.

See you next month for more tips for newbie drivers!

If you want more expert driver tips, or are ready to purchase your first new car, why not call on the experts at your local Perrys dealership today?