Driver Distractions

A recent study shows that 8 out of 10 crashes are due to driver distractions. Are you surprised? Most likely, at some time, you have changed a CD, talked on a cell phone, looked at a map, had a cup of coffee or turned to talk to your children in the back seat while driving. These are all examples of distracted driving and it can lead to tragic consequences.

But it’s only for a second or two

Even if you only take your eyes off the road briefly, there’s plenty of time for something to go wrong. How long does it take to change a CD or dial a call from your cell phone?  Let’s say you are driving at 50 km/h. During the two seconds you glance away, your vehicle will travel almost 30 metres. Two seconds is just long enough to miss a car pulling out from a side road or miss seeing the traffic light change. It's not a lot of time, but it is enough to change the rest of your life, and the lives of the people around you.

There are different types of distractions

Drivers can be distracted by things inside the vehicle (e.g., having a conversation or eating a sandwich) or things that are outside the vehicle (e.g., looking at the scenery or looking for a street address). There are three basic types of distractions:

Physical – These kinds of distractions cause drivers to take their hands off the wheel. Eating a sandwich, changing a CD, and drinking a coffee are all examples of physical distractions.

Cognitive – Having a conversation or argument with another passenger, talking on a cell phone, even daydreaming are examples of cognitive driver distractions.

Combination – Other types of distractions can take your hands, eyes and mind off the task of driving. Combination distractions include: looking at a map, applying make-up and programming your radio.

Give driving your full attention

Driving is a complex task, that is done in a rapidly-changing environment and it requires your full attention. Your safety depends on you keeping your hands on the wheel, your eyes on the road and your mind focussed on driving. New, inexperienced drivers are at even greater at risk.

If you run through a stop sign, have to slam on the brakes suddenly or can’t remember driving from one place to another, chances are you are driving while distracted. It’s time to focus on your driving.

What can you do?

In our fast-paced world, many consider drive-time to be down time and look for ways to be more productive while they are behind the wheel.

But driving safely itself requires us to multi-task. We need to keep our hands on the wheel, our eyes on the road and our minds focussed on the task of driving. There are a number of things you can do to help you keep focussed:

  • Plan your route before you leave home.
  • Finish your personal grooming before you get behind the wheel.
  • Enjoy your coffee at home or in a coffee shop along the way.
  • Avoid eating on the run.
  • Turn your cell phone or blackberry off.
  • Don’t engage in a heated discussion.
  • Put your digital toys away. MP3 players, laptops, notebooks, satellite radios, DVD players do not mix well with driving.

For more information

For more information, to try the “Find the Distractions” activity or to complete our survey, go to the Canadian Automobile Association’s Driven to Distraction site.