Distracted Driving

‘Distracted driving’ is not new but a practice that is recognized and understood by many, save (it appears) some Highways contractors who see it as a means by which a driver can blame another. National Police Chiefs’ Council Lead for Roads Policing, Chief Constable Anthony Bangham is reported to have said (11/2017): “People have to think about the consequences of their actions – a moment’s distraction can change innocent lives. It is never a risk worth taking.”  – full report here.

12/12/2018 – England’s head of motorways has questioned the safety of in-car touchscreens. Jim O’Sullivan, chief executive of Highways England is reported to have said “we don’t like” in-car touchscreens for safety reasons. The European Commission estimates between 10 and 30 per cent of accidents are caused by driver distraction, while carmakers have migrated buttons for everything from heating and air conditioning, to radios and sunroofs, to touchscreens. Article at Auto Express.

But … it takes two to tango … were you the distracted party or the victim of another distraction?

Distracted driving is the act of driving while engaged in other activities and is generally split into 3 types of distraction:

  • Visual –  taking one’s eyes off the road
  • manual – taking hands off the steering wheel.
  • cognitive – the mind wanders, the focus is on something other than driving

The problem is recognised as a substantial problem in the USA and more information can be located at ‘Distraction’.  To quote FleetWorld (April 2016):

‘These idiots don’t recognise the distraction element; don’t realise their speed rises and falls during a call, how they often change’ lane without looking and don’t appreciate the distance they travel while they take their eyes from the road to mobile, be that to see who is calling or to answer a text.’

A growing number of UK motorists are concerned about driver distraction which, linked to all forms of mobile phone use, is seen as a bigger threat to motorists than any other factor – Fleet World article 23/11/2016 click here.  The 2016 study of UK motorists’ driving safety attitudes and behaviour’  can be read by click here.

The following are examples of current distractions:

  • Dialling a mobile phone
  • Reaching for or talking on a mobile phone – 09/2016: ‘one in three drivers use handheld mobile phones’.  Read the Fleetworld article here
  • Sending, receiving or reading text messages
  • Browsing the internet
  • Map reading
  • Reaching for an object in the vehicle
  • Looking at an outside person, object or event (Rubbernecking)
  • Eating and / or drinking
  • Smoking
  • Interaction with radio, CD player (or head unit)
  • Interaction with a SatNav
  • Adjusting vehicle settings – seats, climate etc.
  • Attending to personal hygiene or appearance – using mirrors to check hair etc.,
  • applying make-up, combing hair etc.
  • Driving whilst tired or drowsy
  • Driving with a pet
  • Driving with children

Mobile phones appear to be a particular cause of distraction in vehicles and the US Department of Transportation estimated reaching for a phone distracts a driver for 4.6 seconds, or about 100m if the vehicle is traveling 55 miles per hour – often substantially less than on UK roads.

In 2011, according to the USA’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) one in three of accidents was caused by distracted driving. Further information and resources can be found at:

10/2016 – FleetWorld: Latest figures reveal distracted driving epidemic. “These shocking figures reveal the scale of the task in hand …”, to read more click here

01/2016 – Outcome of the 01/2016 ‘consultation on changes to the Fixed Penalty Notice and penalty points for the use of a hand-held mobile phone whilst driving’ awaited.  The consultation document can be found here