I feel certain you have heard this phrase before; it is at the core of many safe driving campaigns. The QLD Police recently launched new road bike designs with the ‘Fatal Five’ contributors to accidents, ‘Driving Distracted’ is one of those Fatal Five.   But what exactly is ‘driver distraction’? Were you aware there are four main divisions in this area? Or that driver distraction is estimated to account for approximately 25% of motor vehicle accidents?     There are four types of driver distraction:    

Physical Distraction: Configuring your GPS, texting, dialling, adjusting the music etc.

Visual Distraction: Looking at your GPS, phone or interactive music/navigation system; especially when they are not set up within your driving line of sight. This could also be oncoming traffic or animals on the road.

Auditory Distraction: Conversing with someone, music, phone notifications, GPS notifications etc.

Cognitive Distraction: Focusing on the conversation; particularly arguments or heated debates, driving when upset, distressed, anxious or stressed; especially if driving to a tight deadline.  

A recent WA Survey found that 80% of the participants rated driver distraction as a major concern, only 8% lower than drink driving and 2% lower than speeding. The survey found that drug driving and driver fatigue rated 6% lower, concern wise, than distracted driving.   The QLD Police report that distracted driving contributes to 22% of car crashes and near crashes and 71% of truck crashes (near crashes 46%). This being distraction from non-driving related activities; such as phones, GPS and passengers.   So, how do you reduce distractions and your risk of accident? Device use (physical distractions):
    • Pull over to make phone calls or send text messages, stationary traffic is not appropriate; this can increase your chance of being rear-ended.
    • Set-up a playlist before you start driving; if you are taking a road trip, hand DJing rights over to your passenger.
    • Configure your GPS before you start driving; if you need to make an adjustment, add an extra stop or locate a nearby amenity, pull-over and enter the new details.  
Set-up a natural line-of-sight (visual distractions):
    • If you have a separate GPS system (it isn't in-built to your music system/dash) set it up near your natural line-of-sight.
    • Your GPS location should not require you to turn your head remove your eyes from the road in front of you. Near your rear-view mirror is a natural location for your eyes to be looking.
    • Your GPS placement should not negatively impact your vision of the road. Inbuilt Systems: Often are connected to your inner display (near your speedometer), these will not display full maps but will often show arrows for your upcoming turns etc.
    • Be aware of the local animals; if you are travelling in an outback area known for high numbers of kangaroos or wallabies, drive with your lights on and pay attention at the road and roadside areas ahead.  
Noise levels (auditory distractions):
    • If travelling with passengers they should be aware not to shout or scream, they should also be conscious not to bring up topics which will cause you, the driver, distress.
    • If possible, try to ensure your music is at a consistent volume. Tracks which are much louder than those before them can startle you, causing distraction.  
Conversations and/or arguments (cognitive distractions):
    • While driving you should avoid having emotional discussions or arguments, anything which distracts you from the task of driving.
    • If you are upset you should pull the vehicle over, in a safe location, and take the time to settle yourself.
    • If you are driving to meet a deadline and it is causing you distress or tiredness, due to a lack of stops you should pull over and advise the place you are headed that you will be late. Being half an hour late is a better end than an accident.  
General advice:
    • Ensure your passengers know not to distract you, they should know not to scream, poke, antagonise or harass you. If you feel your passengers are being disruptive an disrespectful, tell them.
    • Plan any long journey, map out good rest spots, any overnight stays and check-in points. Advise the people waiting on you an approximate time and that you will update them throughout your journey. Never set an unreasonable time that does not allow for rest breaks or traffic.  
Taking into consideration some of these simple steps to prevent distraction could assist you in avoiding a costly accident, or worse. We aim to arm you with this information so that you can make informed driving decisions and understand exactly how distraction can affect you. Some information may not be applicable to you, or may be more of a challenge to address; children do not tend to cry on a schedule. However, incorporating some of these elements to reduce distraction could improve your driving experience, and reduce your chance of distraction causing an accident.   If you would like further information, or to discuss this information further, please contact the Gouldson Legal Team.

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