Six ways to eliminate driver distractions

To drive safely, it’s important to be able to recognize and minimize the danger of driver distractions.

Writing in the Autumn edition of Good Motoring, the member magazine of GEM Motoring Assist, road safety author Sandra Macdonald-Ames picked through the range of distractions that can compromise safety and offered some simple tips for eliminating them.

  • Don’t touch that phone.Unless it’s an emergency, you must not use your phone whilst driving (six points, £200 fine). Consider putting it out of reach to remove any temptation. Switch your phone to silent and turn off your Bluetooth: this will prevent messages coming through, but it will still be available in an emergency.
  • End of the journey. Satnavs are great for the last part of a journey to somewhere you haven’t been before, but how about looking up Google Streetview before you set off? It will give you a feel for your destination and where the turnings are.If a route feels familiar you won’t get so stressed.
  • Music presets.Choose your favourites in advance on your phone’s playlist, or preset your favourite radio stations, so you won’t have to fiddle with any dials. Keep the volume down to a reasonable level and you’ll be more aware of what’s happening around you.
  • Your car is not a restaurant.Have breakfast before you leave for work, not while you’re driving. For longer trips, plan regular drinks breaks. Yes, cars have cup holders but you take a risk if you choose to eat and drink while you’re driving.
  • Stay fresh and alert.To ease the boredom on long journeys, we often actively seek out distractions.Take regular breaks of at least 15 minutes every two hours or 100 miles instead. Get some fresh air by walking around, have some coffee or light refreshments and enjoy a short power nap.
  • Keep your passengers occupied.If you’re travelling with young children, make sure there is plenty to keep them occupied.Older children should be able to understand the risks, so you can use them as a second pair of eyes. This also helps teenagers to develop their hazard perception skills early.

“Where drivers divide their attention between the main task of driving and a secondary, distracting task, there will be a negative effect on driving performance,” Sandra Macdonald-Ames said. “Sensible lane choice can disappear, reactions are slowed, observations become more fixed, all-round scanning stops, drivers get too close up behind others and find it hard to keep speeds consistent. They feel less in control of the environment, they are more likely to become stressed, and this can lead to tiredness and/or anger.

“But the good news is that we can banish just about any distraction, as long as we want to. This is best achieved through straightforward self-discipline and sensible journey planning.”