Driver distractions

Stay sharp while you're behind the wheel

It doesn't matter if you've just passed your test or if you're an experienced driver - everyone can find themselves losing concentration on the road from time to time.

In fact, our research shows:

  • 49% of drivers report regularly thinking about arriving on time while driving
  • 34% think about work
  • 25% think about the future

Only 30% of people said they only think about driving or navigation while driving.

Distracted driving might not seem as dangerous as falling asleep at the wheel or drink driving - but it can be just as deadly.

According to .Gov research official accident data, in 2017, there were 4,573 injury accidents where driver distraction was recorded as a contributory factor - 774 were serious, and 125 were fatal.

Different types of driving distractions

There are three different types of distractions which drivers have to tackle:

  • Physical distractions, such as texting or making a phone call, setting a sat nav, or eating. Remember it's illegal to use a hand-held phone while driving - as well as being potentially dangerous, if you're caught you face a £200 fine and six points on your licence.
  • Mental distractions, such as worries, a conversation in the car or on a hands-free phone, or not paying attention to familiar roads.
  • Visual and audio distractions, such as loud music, looking at things happening outside your car, or trying to read a sat nav.

There are some simple things you can do to make sure there's nothing to distract you and that your full attention is on the road.

Prepare yourself and your car before starting your journey

  • Clear out clutter - cans and soft drink bottles rolling around under your seat are clearly a distraction and could even roll under the pedals and stop you from being able to use them properly.
  • If you need to use your sat nav, make sure it's fully charged up (or plugged into your car's charging port), and that you've already programmed the correct postcode and address.
  • Pre-set the radio to your favourite stations, and if you want to listen to playlists, make sure they're set up on your device before you leave.
  • Send any texts or make calls, then pop your phone in the glove box.
  • Make sure you're well-rested before setting off on any kind of long road trip.

Staying clear-headed while you're on the road

  • It's not easy to put all of your worries and thoughts to one side, but you need to be as calm and focused as possible.
  • If you have something on your mind, try to deal with it - as much as possible - before getting behind the wheel.
  • Try not to drive if you're feeling overwhelmed, stressed, or you think you won't be able to give driving your full attention.
  • If you need to make a call or send a text, wait until you've pulled over safely to use your phone.
  • Even if you're feeling stressed, resist the urge to smoke, vape or eat while you're driving.

Staying focused while you have passengers in the car

Passengers of all ages can be a distraction - from teething toddlers to overexcited friends.

  • Make sure children are securely strapped into car seats and booster seats.
  • If you're driving with one young child, it can be less distracting for the child to ride in the front seat (in a suitable restraint) because casual eye contact is easier.
  • If there are two adults in the car, one can look after any children while the other concentrates on driving.
  • Ask passengers to keep the music at a level where you can hear the sat nav and other drivers around you.
  • If you're finding the drive difficult, ask your passengers to keep conversations to a minimum.
  • Keep political discussions and any other heated topics strictly off-limits.

Driving safely with pets in the car

There are ways of keeping your pet safe in the car, but if your pet is playing up during the drive, how can you stay calm and collected?

  • Secure your pet properly - never let your pet travel loose in the car, even if you're worried the drive is stressing it out. Besides being a serious distraction, if they're free to jump about inside the car, they're more likely to be injured or injure you if you are involved in a collision.
  • Don't attempt to reach out and calm your pet until you've pulled over and parked safely.
  • Ensure there's plenty of fresh air and make regular stops for walks and toilet breaks - they'll benefit both of you.

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