We all know the dangers of talking on the phone while driving, even if it's in hands-free mode.
But there are faaaar more situations just waiting to distract you at the wheel: eating, fiddling with the radio, spotting an interesting horse. I scoured the internets to discover what else motorists have found disastrously distracting, and ways to deal with it.
Distraction can creep up on you
The first distraction is one little thing that can cause people BIG problems. So much so that one cyclist was killed when a woman tried to deal with hers.
These little critters can give people massive frights when they make their presence known. In one case last year, a motorist had a moment and ended up crashing into a pole.
According to Neil Greig, the policy and research director at IAM RoadSmart, the best course of action isn't to open the window and hope the little dude is sucked out of the car.
"Continuing to drive with that kind of distraction is a bad idea," he says, as opening a window while driving diverts a driver's attention from the road. His advice? “You need to stop the car and deal with the issue." We'll call that spidey-sense.
Pass the hairbrush
It seems obvious, but if you're looking in a mirror while trying to put on your L'Oreal Infallible lipstick, you’re probably not paying attention to what is going on in front of you on the road.
If you're stopped at a red light, you might think you can get away with it (unless you're like me and REALLY bad with lipstick...) but if a police officer saw you, or you made a bad boo-boo because you were distracted, you could be charged with driving without due care and attention.
Don't groom on the go
Looking across the pond, America has a safety group called Decide to Drive that's actually released guidelines on how to avoid grooming distractions.
It's pretty simple, really - do it before you leave, or do it when you arrive at your destination. I thought Committees for Obvious Decisions were a European thing.
If the temptation is just too great for you, make sure your hairbrush, lipstick and mascara aren't on the passenger seat flirting with you. Have them tucked away so your fabulous fingers can't reach them.
If you're driving the same road every single day, that's when distraction can get you. Find out more about the problem with driving on auto-pilot.
Mum's the word
Here's one for the person with the parents that just. Wont. Stop. Talking. About Aunt Janice's adorable little cat, Mr Tumnus, and his bushy tail that leaves hair EVERYWHERE... You can legitimately tell them to put a sock in it, or you may have a crash.
Yep, according to the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (that's a real thing) adults are more distracting in vehicles than children.
This could be due to the fact that adults learn to tolerate the incessant noise that children make, or as our friend Neil from IAM RoadSmart thinks, "It might be that arguments with adults are a little more emotionally involved."
Arguments between adults are listed by 23% of people as a distraction, while kids only got a 13%. You LOSE, little suckers.
That's not to say idle chit-chat is bad, though. Psychologist Sandi Mann, who wrote the book The Upside of Downtime: Why Boredom is Good, says small-talk between adults can stimulate the driver, making them more alert.
But if an argument is brewing, once again, pull the car over so you can really focus on telling them why you don’t care about Mr Tumnus oh my God Mum shut up right now before I leave home to be an Uber driver.
I'm in a sea of emotion!
Sandi Mann also recommends you don’t get behind the wheel if you're in emotional distress. Research on such things said that your chances of being involved in an accident increased tenfold if you hit the road "...while observably angry, sad, crying, or emotionally agitated."
[Not sure who you're supposed to stand in front of to check that - "Dave, can you see I'm upset? Dude, listen, do I look angry or sad right now?"]
Being upset can be as bad as drifting off
Mann says that your emotional state can be as detrimental to your driving ability as daydreaming, and that you really do need to be focused on what you’re doing. "You don’t want anything that distracts [you] from the task."
If you're feeling a little emotional about that breakup/argument/Game of Thrones episode, Mann suggests you tailor your music selection to something without a heavy emotional meaning. "You need some upbeat music, just enough to help you concentrate."
So, if you're an Adele fan, maybe save the sad ones for when you're at home with that tub of ice cream and your slanket.
Eyes on the road, boys
This one is fairly solidly aimed at the chaps in the audience: don't ogle and drive.
In a recent survey, nearly 60% of Australian men said they were distracted by 'good-looking women' while they were driving. Women, being the more restrained sex, only reported a 15.2% reaction to the suns-out-guns-out male crowd.
These distractions of the flesh don't just apply to those walking around on 2 legs, either. In 1994 there was a billboard of Eva Herzigova wearing a particularly fetching bra with the words 'Hello, boys' stencilled underneath. It was blamed for a whole string of accidents and traffic jams.
In this case, IAM RoadSmart don't have a specific solution, but recommend you "take [your] driving seriously." And try not to ogle.
What goes on in the car doesn't stay in the car
The Australian survey also noted that a number of accidents had been caused by distractions INSIDE the car.
And it's not just the Aussies guilty of this - here in the UK, police in the Thames Valley and Hampshire areas launched Operation Tramline (?!) in an effort to make the roads a little safer.
In the 4 days that Tramline (seriously, who comes up with these?) was running, officers stopped 187 drivers who were flouting the rules. 147 of these were the usual 'my phone call is more important than your life' crowd, but the other 40 were of a...different nature
My second favourite Operation Tramline stop was the person whose book was SO riveting, he couldn't even pause his reading when he was hurtling down the motorway. That's dedication to the arts.
But the one that takes the cake was an individual who was pulled over for committing 'an indecent act' while driving at speed. Scream if you wanna go faster, right?
These are just a few of the distractions out there - but by rule of thumb, if whatever you want to do means you're not fully concentrating on the road, wait until you reach your destination. You can't do 2 things at once if one of them's driving.
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