21 fatal accidents, 170 injury accidents and 1133 minor accidents in New Zealand in 2013 had driver distraction as a contributing factor.
The American Automobile Association published some research on teen driving crashes. Teens don’t have much experience behind the wheel so they haven’t yet developed efficient ways of dealing with difficult situations on the road; distractions take too much brainpower away from the task of driving and increase the risk of having an accident quite a lot. Here are the main causes:
15% – Interacting with one or more passengers
Mates should help mates, and if you’re driving with a bunch of them, they should be on the lookout for dangers as well as you. But, what quite often happens is that you’re in high spirits and having a laugh, and that split second of inattention on the road could be all it takes for you to misjudge a corner. When you’re driving with mates, make sure you remind them that they can help you be on the lookout for hazards. This doesn’t mean you can’t have a chat and a laugh, but it means you’re using teamwork to help with the driving.
12% – Using a cellphone
Even using a hands-free phone increases your risk of having an accident, so it’s best to put your phone in the glovebox or give it to a (trustworthy) friend in the car who can deal with any messages or calls. You’re at least 2-3 times more likely to have a crash and die if you’re using a phone while you’re driving.
10% – looking at something in the vehicle
Modern cars have a lot of features which you can play with – heated seats, air conditioning, multimedia systems, and more. If you’re looking away from the road to make your bum warmer, you’re not fully in control of the car.
9% – looking at something outside the vehicle
We all get distracted by things outside the vehicle – attractive people, ugly people, nice buildings, scenery and so on – and it takes an enormous amount of willpower to not look at those things. Your solution is to acknowledge that you will look at those things, but to limit the amount of time you look to an absolute minimum by making them part of your scanning (the action of looking at all potential dangers up ahead).
8% – singing or dancing to music
If you get carried away busting out rhymes, take care not to bust up your car. Music is good; pretending you’re at a gig is not.
6% – grooming
All you need to do is get up 10 minutes earlier and then you won’t have to shave or put make-up on in the car. You shouldn’t be doing it while at the lights either. Police can give you a fine if you are seen doing this as it’s dangerous.
Checking your hair and make-up while driving isn’t necessary as it’s not going to change before you stop.
6% – reaching for an object
If you’re reaching for an object in the foot well or glove box then you will probably have to take your eyes off the road. As you lean, you’ll tend to steer in that direction which puts you at risk of running off the road. Try pulling over and stopping the car if you need to reach something.