According to government figures, 58% of drivers admit that using their mobile phone is their biggest distraction while driving. Other distractions include time pressures, food and drink, and using the stereo or changing music.
We’ve written all about Motor Vehicle Accidents previously
Distraction caused by passengers, eating and drinking, in-car technology and stimulus outside the car will be discussed as potential car accident causes below. Read an overview of car accidents.
While driving companions can be a saving grace on long-distance road trips, they are a potential car accident hazard for the most part.
Passengers, especially if they don’t drive themselves, have a habit of asking you questions when you are trying to negotiate with traffic at roundabouts and junctions. You may also find that they think they know best and will begin to challenge you about your driving aptitude, again highly distracting.
If asked to navigate, passengers often contribute to hazardous situations by yelling out sudden instructions like “turn left now” when you have already passed the turning. Any driver caught unaware may make a sudden turn and end up hurtling into the street post.
Parents travelling with children in the back are statistically at even higher risk of being distracted and causing a car accident. There have been many cases where drivers have glanced in the rear-view mirror or even turned their head for a split-second to see what their kids are up to and caused a car accident as a result. Read more about car accident incidence rates and gender.
In-car technology and mobile phones
In-car technology is a growing concern for road safety specialists. As the digital age evolves we are seeing the introduction of satellite navigation systems and DVD players to our cars as standard. Then, of course, there is the ongoing battle of mobile phone use while behind the wheel.
Many drivers are now opting for cars that have built in GPS Satellite Navigation Systems which can pinpoint a particular destination via satellite and provide you with directions through a computerised voice on how to get there. This modern alternative to the map is handy for finding your way around but is not always reliable and motorists have been known to cause car accidents while fiddling around with the controls.
Use of a hand-held mobile phone while driving has been banned in the UK since December 2003. Motorists are not even allowed to talk or text on the phone if stopped at traffic lights or in a traffic jam.
However, motorists are still permitted to use their mobile phone if they have a hands-free kit. But, it is worth considering that if you are involved in a car accident while using a hands-free phone, you risk prosecution for failing to have proper control of the vehicle and are likely to receive a careless driving charge.
While we have had car stereos for many years and most wouldn’t regard them as particularly distracting, a recent Australian study revealed that drivers find adjusting their stereo more distracting than using their hands-free mobile phone to make a call. Results showed that those distracted by audio systems while driving braked 10 km per hour slower than focussed drivers while drivers using their hands-free mobile braked 6 km per hour slower.
However, with the introduction of MP3 players and Ipods which have the capacity for hundreds of songs you can store all your favourite tunes and will have less cause to take your attention away from the wheel to skip to the next track.
Parents are also investing in DVD players to entertain their kids in the back of the car. While this is a great ploy to stop joyous chants like “Are we nearly there yet”, loud and sudden noises or a particularly interesting storyline may distract the driver’s attention with fateful consequences.
Want to avoid the consequences of an accident? Learn how: Motor Vehicle Accident Causes.
Eating and drinking
Not many motorists are aware that it is illegal to eat and drink while driving and both of these offences are covered by careless driving laws. Road safety experts believe that eating while driving is just as distracting as using a mobile phone for the following reasons.
Firstly, eating while you drive may require you to remove your hands from the wheel. You may need to open an awkward packet or bottle and eating some foods such as crisps require the use of two hands.
Secondly, some snack foods like chocolate release certain mood-altering chemicals into the brain. For example, scientists have found that chocolate contains tryptophan which can produce feelings of elation, a similar effect to ecstasy. Phenylethylamine is another active ingredient, which works similarly to amphetamines, promoting feelings of giddiness and apprehension, while anandamide targets the brain in a similar way to cannabis.
You may be so overcome by the chemical reactions which occur while enjoying your food that you cause a car crash. However, most would have to eat a fairly large quantity of chocolate before it had a significant impact on their driving ability. Read more about drug driving.
Thirdly, burgers, chips, pies and other greasy foods will get all over your fingers causing a constant urge to lick them or wipe them on something, again requiring you to remove your hands from the wheel. You may even transfer grease to the steering wheel which could cause your hands to slip, the car to swerve and subsequently a car accident to occur.
Outside the car
Just as chatty passengers, the demands of small children in the back seat, eating and in-car technology can be a distraction inside the car, there is a wealth of distractions outside too. How often has an attractive passer by caught your eye when you are supposed to be concentrating on the road? Then there are random sights like students running around in their pyjamas beside the M40 in aid of RAG week that are bound to make you look twice.
As the advertising industry continues to boom we see more and more distractions popping up at the roadsides. Billboards are becoming larger, more colourful and even incorporate moving pictures into their design so it is hardly surprising that they grab our attention.
One particularly dangerous ploy is to use the art of seduction on roadside billboards. One glance at a larger than life Eva Herzigova sporting a Wonderbra is guaranteed to turn the head of most red-blooded males and, if traveling at 60mph along the motorway, this could result in a serious car accident.
In fact, a study has found that provocative pictures can leave you temporarily blind and unable to register any new images for several tenths of a second. If another car was indicating to come across to your lane and you failed to see the signal as a result of gawping at a busty lady you could have a fatal car crash on your hands.