Distractions cause inattention and are a factor in an estimated quarter of all crashes. To stay focused and safe you have to recognise all distractions you can be confronted with. Distractions come in many forms and from any direction. It can be something like a loud noise, or a phone ringing. We may handle one or two distractions at a time, but an accumulation of them becomes overwhelming. Deal with them as they arrive, or even better, before they happen.
It’s a good start if you get into ‘driving mode’ before you get into the vehicle. Stay focused while you drive. While distractions can occur at any time, the greatest danger is within five kilometers of your home or work. In familiar environments, crashes can happen at any speed, and can be serious even al low speeds because of your delayed reactions.
Outside of the vehicle all sorts of interesting things can capture your attention – roadworks, interesting people, other traffic incidents. Have you ever noticed how often a crash causes more crashes? Looking for street signs and addresses also steals your attention. Distractions inside the vehicle take your mind off the road and into the vehicle. Most are voluntary; eating, drinking, maps, using electronic devices, radio, the GPS or your organiser or phone. Adopt a ‘set and forget’ policy for all these devices. Set them up before leaving and forget about them while driving.
Retrieving dropped items is extremely risky – don’t attempt it while you are moving. Noisy and disruptive children can be extremely distracting so have some rules, games and passtimes for them. If you need to restore order, stop first.
To drive safely you need clear, unobscured visability. Badly placed stickers and things hanging off the mirror can affect your peripheral vision – get rid of them. But, perhaps the least obvious of all the hazzards, but no less deadly, are our internal distractions. Fatigue, boredom and daydreaming on a familiar road or long trips and work and emotional stresses. Take steps to minimise or isolate the hazzard. Practice good driving habits and control distractions before they control you.