NSW Police Traffic Services Commander, Chief Superintendent John Hartley, says there’s little doubt that distracted drivers can cause traffic problems and road crashes.
He explains that there are many distractions on the road, including more and more traffic.
Additionally, drivers now also have to contend with new or more affordable technologies like smart phones, MP3 players, GPS devices, and in-car DVDs, which can act as a distraction.
Here are some of the worst driver distractions:
Mobile phones (talking and texting)
Using a mobile while driving can increase the risk of a collision by four times, according to several studies. Sending a text message is even worse.
Learner and P1 drivers are not allowed to use ANY function of a phone (including hands-free) while driving.
P2 drivers may only use a mobile phone to make or receive a call, or use the audio player if the phone is secured in a fixed mounting. If you are a P2 driver, and your phone is not in a mounting, to answer your phone it must not require you to touch or manipulate the phone in any way.
All other functions such as texting, video messaging, online chatting, reading preview messages and emailing are not allowed. The new laws make it clear that a driver in a moving or stationary vehicle (unless parked) MUST NOT HOLD a phone in his or her hand other than to pass the phone to a passenger.
From the 2015 Christmas holidays, mobile phone offences will be included in double demerit periods. From early in 2016, offenders will lose an extra demerit point for illegally using their mobile phones, up from three points to four points.
Adjusting vehicle settings
This is the most common bad driving habit because many people don’t realise it’s dangerous to fiddle with the radio, air-conditioning or windows while driving.
“Crashes often occur as a result of only a moment’s inattention,” says Commander Chief Superintendent John Hartley.
“While you’re changing the CD or skimming through songs on your mp3, your full attention isn’t on the road and [it is] placing you at risk of a crash.” The best idea is to make any adjustments before you set off or put your mp3 on shuffle before you begin your journey.
Young drivers have a greater risk of crashing when they have friends in the car.
The stats also tell us that there’s more chance of causing a fatal crash when you have two or more friends in the car, especially male passengers. However, the risk is reduced when carrying an adult or a child, compared with carrying no passengers.
Eating, drinking and smoking
Aside from the obvious dangers of drink-driving, even sipping on a non-alcoholic drink takes your focus off the road.
An American study has found that eating a cheeseburger can be more distracting than talking on a mobile. And the risk of causing a crash is just one more reason not to smoke!
As if there wasn’t enough happening inside the car, there are lots of distractions outside too. Make sure you look out for other drivers and pedestrians, while trying to block out the roadside billboards, shops and all sorts of unexpected or interesting things going on in the streets.