The facts are clear, in order to drive safely, the road needs our full attention at all times. However, distracted driving is a problem in the UK. In a survey of 11,000 drivers in St Albans, 1 in 6 were found to be engaged in a distracting activity. Regardless of new rules and legislation, distracted driving is an issue that is going to be difficult to solve, this is partly due to drivers overestimating their performance. Drivers may ‘look but not see’ – sometimes when driving, we think we’ve checked our surroundings carefully, but haven’t actually looked long enough at all.
Smartphone use while driving has been a hot topic for newspapers and magazines, but did you know that any activity that keeps your attention away from the road counts as ‘distracted driving’.
What is distracted driving?
– The driver was fiddling with a GPS system, handset or another form of ‘in-vehicle device’.
– The driver was making a phone call, texting or posting to social media.
– Evidence suggests that the more complex and loud music is, the greater the distraction to the driver. Drivers are also more prone to aggressive driving when listening to loud, upbeat music.
– Eating or drinking at the wheel. This means the driver has to take at least one hand off the road. A study has suggested that drivers who eat or drink at the wheel have a decreased reaction time of 44%. [According to a Brake survey.] And drivers who eat and drink could be twice as likely to crash.
– Smoking is a frequently observed distraction. Not only does lighting the cigarette take hands and eyes off the road, but if the cigarette or its ash falls onto the driver or car, the driver’s attention can be diverted almost completely.
– Driver mindset accounts for their performance on the road. The driver could be distracted by other passengers or could be so familiar to a route that they ‘switch off’ and go on ‘autopilot’, meaning they pay less attention to the road.
Consequence traps and conditioning traps.
Some distractions are just too tempting to ignore.
A consequence trap is a distraction that we know we shouldn’t do but has an immediate reward. Such as reaching over to a flask of coffee so that we can drink it before it goes cold.
A Conditioning trap is a type of distraction that we have done many times before with no problems, so think we can get away with performing this activity. For example, if our sat nav is constantly playing up but we have never gotten into a crash because of it, we falsely assume that it’s a safe activity.
Drivers have a responsibility on the road. We have a duty to drive safely and responsibly. Failing to do so is negligent. If you were injured in an accident involving a distracted driver, take note of anything that could have caused the accident and make sure the police know if a driver was distracted.
In road traffic accident cases, information can be gathered from CCTV evidence, eyewitnesses and phone usage. If the driver was working at the time of the accident, the company they are employed by may be liable; for example, if they insist on drivers answering their phones or using distracting technology.
At ASD, we have a wealth of experience in dealing with road traffic accident personal injury claims. Take a look at our road traffic accident advice centre. If you would like to speak to a solicitor face to face on a no win no fee basis, then fill in our claims form and we can arrange an immediate home visit.