Drivers need to stay alert for the entire time they are behind the wheel. This means scanning the road environment, processing information, and making decisions about the primary task of driving. However, keeping drivers’ minds on the job is easier said than done.
All drivers engage in some kind of distracting activity while they are driving. Calming a distressed child in the back seat, putting in a CD or changing stereo settings, eating on the run or calling the boss on the mobile phone are all activities that interfere with safe driving.
Distraction occurs when a driver, either willingly or unwillingly, engages in a secondary activity that interferes with performance of their primary task - driving the vehicle (Regan 2005). Drivers can be distracted in many ways by things inside or outside of the vehicle.
While all drivers are susceptible to being distracted, it is possible to train ourselves to choose more appropriate times to deal with certain things that can otherwise be potential distractions while driving.The ‘Not Now’ approach to managing and reducing the occurrence and impact of driver distractions relies on the driver consciously deciding that the driving task is their primary priority.
Driver distraction is one of the biggest issues on Queensland roads today. The latest research shows that 88 percent of RACQ's 1.2 million members believe it's a bigger problem now than it was five years ago. In this episode of RACQ TV, we take a closer look at what driver distraction is by identifying the issue in its many different forms and give you tips on how to avoid it.
Every distraction leads to delays in driver reactions, increases the likelihood of missing potential hazards and compromises safety.
RACQ is pleased that driver inattention/distraction has been identified as part of the ‘Fatal Five’ in Queensland, and has long held the view that it should be a priority road user behaviour issue.
In 2008 there were 30 fatalities as a result of crashes involving drivers or riders attributed with undue care and attention only in Queensland, which represented 9.1% of the Queensland road toll (Data Analysis Unit 2009). This was 14 fatalities (or 31.8%) fewer than the previous year and five fatalities (or 13.3%) greater than the previous five-year average (Data Analysis Unit 2009).
There is evidence to suggest that young novice drivers and older drivers (over 55 years old) are more vulnerable to the effects of distraction than other drivers (Regan 2005). These groups should therefore be especially targeted for education and enforcement activities related to driver distraction.
As more technologically advanced communication and information systems are being introduced to our vehicles and roads, authorities and drivers must be very careful of introducing more sources of distraction either inside or outside the vehicle.
Data Analysis Unit 2009, Personal Correspondence to RACQ, 03/06/09, Queensland Transport, Brisbane, QLD, Australia.
Regan, M. 2005, ‘Driver Distraction: Reflections on the Past, Present and Future’ in Australasian College of Road Safety 2005, Journal of the Australasian College of Road Safety, Volume 1, No. 2, November 2005, p22-33.