We’re always on the move, trying to fit in as much as possible because of our hectic schedules. While trip planning and company fuel cards can help ease the strain, such rushed lifestyles can see us making potentially dangerous compromises on the basics like eating, lighting up a ciggy or faffing around with in-car technology, all while on the move. But research has shown that such habits are serious distractions that can cause accidents…
“I can’t come to the phone right now… because I’ve caused a crash”
While using a mobile has been outlawed since 2003, there is research by the US Governors Highway Safety Association that shows making a hands-free call is just as dangerous as chatting directly on a mobile. A study by the University of Utah also revealed that drivers using hands-free took 20 per cent longer to hit the brakes in an emergency. As for texting behind the wheel, well, do you really need to be told by an official study that it’s lethal?
“Would you like fries or a pile-up with that?”
According to a survey commissioned by Esure car insurance, chomping down on a Ginsters while behind the wheel will see your reaction times double because you will only have one hand on the wheel. So, for example, a reaction time of five seconds climbs by 44% to seven seconds; and those two seconds could make all the difference in an emergency. Now consider the foods themselves – unwrapping, unscrewing, tipping, stuffing, spilling, wiping. The list of potentially lethal distractions is endless…
- Plan time into your schedule to pull over and have lunch; a 5-10 minute short break eating a sarnie means no distractions at the wheel, and the chance to stretch your legs.
- If you do have to eat behind the wheel, don’t do it on the way to work in the morning; it’s the time when we’re most concerned about our appearance and a spill can create even more of a distraction as we curse and frantically wipe away any offending spillages.
“I’m dying for a puff. Literally.”
While fleet managers have strict no-smoking policies in place across their fleet, drivers using their own cars (the dreaded grey fleet) don’t have to adhere to such rules. The dangers of smoking while behind the wheel are well-documented though; ash going in your eye, a burning ember dropping into your lap or a cigarette ending up smoking on the car floor or backseat have all resulted in sometimes fatal accidents.
One German study revealed that a vehicle traveling at 31 MPH will travel 16 yards while the driver faffs about trying to find a dropped fag. Our advice? Kick the habit or buy Nicotine gum/electronic cigarettes for long journeys; the latter though are not recommended for coach drivers…
“Gadgets: a go-go or a no-no?”
Modern vehicles are a gadget fetishist’s dream come true; all those spangly buttons, multifunctional touchscreens and sat navs are just begging to be pushed, poked, swiped and explored. Their operation though can lead to you taking your eye off the road for seconds at a time. And worse still, some of us are operating such equipment while bombing along the M25 at 8570 MPH.
The situation is so bad that those clever spods at Which? magazine are calling for car makers to address the problem with its in-car technology charter. This highfalutin ten-point charter lists solutions to the worst problems; from any internet access and social media functionality only being made available to the driver when their vehicle is stationary to better positioning of steering wheel-mounted controls.
- Get the dealer or lease company to show you how all that in-car tech works before you drive off so you know the best and safest way to operate it from the very off.
- If using a phone to make a call or to check on the location of the nearest company fuel card-qualifying gas station, don’t do it at the wheel. In fact, for anything that requires programming, pairing or the prodding of buttons, stop and do it at the side of the road.