It's all-too-easy to get distracted when you're on the road, and recognising the danger of distractions and knowing how to keep them to a minimum is a vital part of driving safely.
In order to help keep drivers safe on the road, recognising the danger of distractions and knowing how to keep them to a minimum is a vital part of driving safely. That’s why GEM Motoring Assist has published a list of key tips to help drivers stay focused on safe driving.
"As drivers we now deal with more distractions than ever before," road safety author Sandra Macdonald-Ames wrote in the Autumn edition of Good Motoring, GEM’s quarterly member magazine. "There are so many potential demands on our attention, some inside the car, some on the outside and others occurring inside our heads."
"There is the potential for us to allow any distraction to take our minds off the central task of driving – with potentially disastrous consequences."
"But the good news is that we can banish just about any distraction, as long as we want to," she added. "This is best achieved through straightforward self-discipline and sensible journey planning."
Here are GEM’s six tips for banishing distractions on road journeys:
Leave the phone alone
Unless it is an emergency, you must not use your phone whilst driving (6 points, £200 fine). Consider putting it out of reach to remove the temptation. Younger drivers call the glove box the phone box. Switch the phone to silent and turn off the Bluetooth: this will prevent messages coming through, but it is still available in an emergency.
Plan the journey in advance so that you are aware of your approximate route. Satnavs are great for the last part of a journey if you have not been there before, so how about using Google Streetview before you go? This will give you a feel for the destination and where the turnings are, so it helps reduce stress as the route will feel familiar.
Choose your favourites in advance such as on your phone’s playlist, with a stack of CDs - or preset your favourite radio stations. This ensures you don’t need to do any fiddling on a journey. Keep the volume down to a reasonable level to allow you to have more awareness of what’s going on around you.
The restaurant on wheels is closed
Consider having breakfast before you set off for work, not while you’re on the way. For longer trips, plan regular drinks breaks. Yes, cars have cup holders but when you’re driving, you take a risk by choosing to eat and drink as well.
Keep fresh and alert
We tend to look for distractions on long journeys to ease the boredom. Much better to make regular stops of at least 15 minutes every two hours or 100 miles. Get some fresh air by walking around, have some coffee or light refreshments and enjoy a short power nap.
Occupy your passengers
If you’re travelling with young children, make sure there is plenty to keep them occupied, as this will help ensure they don’t distract you. Who wants the ‘are we nearly there yet?’ question five minutes after setting off? Older children should be more able to understand the risks, so you can use them as a second pair of eyes. This helps teenagers to develop hazard perception skills early.
"By effectively managing all the potential distractions we face as drivers, we will be able to anticipate hazards, become smoother and calmer in our driving and stay on the right side of the law," said GEM road safety officer Neil Worth. "We are also less likely to be involved in a collision or near miss. We just need to ensure we have the willpower to make it happen!"