Each time an individual takes control of a vehicle, they engage in an intricate and mentally demanding activity. Despite the perception among seasoned drivers that driving becomes almost automatic and requires minimal cognitive effort, studies indicate that it demands focused attention.

However, this perceived lack of effort might be the reason why some drivers believe they can multitask while driving. The notion that there is surplus attention available while driving is false, yet the prevalence of technological distractions in vehicles is increasing – alongside attention-related incidents.

Keep reading as we examine the alarming rise of distracted driving in the UK, its causes, consequences, and how to prevent it.

What will be a serious distraction while driving? 

Annually, a notable number of accidents plague the roads of the UK, with distracted driving emerging as a primary cause. Mobile phone usage stands out as a major contributor to this issue, although it’s not the sole source of distraction. Other distractions include reading newspapers, adjusting navigation systems, eating, drinking, smoking, or vaping, as well as interactions with passengers.

But distractions aren’t always external. Unchecked emotions can also steal driver focus, reduce awareness, and contribute towards incidents on the road.

For fleet managers, effective driving at work risk management programmes play a crucial role in addressing these distractions and promoting road safety.

The consequences of distracted driving

While many of these activities may not be explicitly prohibited by law, drivers can still face legal repercussions if their distraction leads to an accident. For example, using handheld mobile phones while driving can result in fines of up to £1000 (£2,500 if you are driving a lorry or a bus) and six penalty points on one’s license. And, if you passed your driving test in the last 2 years, you’ll also lose your licence.

How many car crashes are caused by distracted driving?

Approximately 25,000 individuals suffer severe injuries or fatalities in road accidents annually. Around 10% are accidents caused by distracted driving.

The prevalence of distracted driving 

An astonishing 11 million UK motorists admit to using mobile phones while driving, and 16% of drivers acknowledge texting or messaging while behind the wheel. Although hands-free phone use is often perceived as acceptable, it still extends driver reaction times by 30%, a level comparable to that of individuals under the influence of alcohol at the legal limit.

A study in 2018 reported that 90% of parents admitted to taking their eyes off the road, and additionally, 38% of adults with children under the age of 4 acknowledged to having to deal with their children in the back whilst driving.

While smoking was historically a significant distraction, its prevalence has diminished in recent times, although the rise of vaping has introduced a new distraction.

Brake, the road safety charity, reports that drivers who eat and drink while driving are twice as likely to crash, as this diverts attention from the task at hand and increases driver reaction times by up to 44%. Additionally, it creates physical distraction as at least one hand is occupied with food or drink.

Top 10 tips for avoiding distracted driving 

Below are top tips focused on minimising the impact of what’s most likely do distract you while you’re driving at any given time:

  1. Stow your phone – Turning off the phone and putting it in “do not disturb” mode can help remove the temptation to browse online at a red light or respond right away to a text message.
  2. Vow not to multitask – Anything that occupies your mind or vision can be a distraction behind the wheel. Make time at home to eat meals or put on makeup so you can focus on the road.
  3. Don’t be a distraction – Avoid calling or texting family members and friends when you know they are driving to avoid distracting them.
  4. Talk to your employer – Responding to texts or taking calls for work while driving can be dangerous. Encourage your employer to have a distracted driving policy that includes waiting to talk with employees until they are safely parked.
  5. Keep kids and pets safe – Make sure kids are in proper car seats and that pets stay secured in their zone in the back of your vehicle. It can also help reduce distractions if pets are not roaming about the car.
  6. Set a good example – Parents can model good behaviour for their children by demonstrating attentive driving. Avoid texting, eating or calling someone while behind the wheel.
  7. Plan your route before you go – Programming your navigation system while you drive can take your eyes off the road. It’s better to ask a passenger to do it or to enter your destination before you leave home.
  8. Speak up – If you see someone texting or otherwise driving while distracted, say something and let them know that you are not comfortable with that behaviour. Encourage your children to do the same when they are passengers in a friend’s car. It could save a life.
  9. Set rules of the road – Consider restricting the number of passengers until your teen or new driver gains experience behind the wheel.
  10. Avoiding reaching – Resist the urge to reach for items if they fall while driving. Taking your eyes off the road to search for an item can make you more likely to have an accident.

Reduce distracted driving with Cardinus 

These statistics highlight the urgent need for heightened awareness and stringent measures to address distracted driving and bolster road safety throughout the UK. At Cardinus, our Safe Driving programs (including eLearning and in-vehicle training) emphasise the importance of concentration and avoiding distractions while driving. We also have a distracted driving micro-learning video, which can help you to enhance employee road safety in less 5 minutes. Contact us  for more information.

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