A driver with their hands on the steering wheel whilst their phone is cradled on the dashboard illustrating the dangers of driving whilst distracted

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Technology and dangerous driving – how to avoid distractions on the road

Claire Roantree looks at one of the major causes of road accidents in the UK, distractions whilst driving.

Distracted driving is not a new phenomenon. However, as technology becomes more integrated into our lives the opportunity to be distracted while driving has drastically increased. As we embrace new advancements and innovation, we must ensure we adapt our behaviours to remain safe on the roads.

Technology both inside and outside of vehicles represents a new source of distraction to drivers, and a failure to identify and act on these distractions will have severe safety consequences. In 2019, there were 2,563 road crashes in Britain in which distraction in the vehicle was deemed a contributory factor. This resulted in 65 fatal accidents and 614 accidents in which someone was seriously injured.

Last month, the Major Trauma Group published research that revealed 77 percent of British adults surveyed agreed that their driving ability and ability to concentrate whilst operating a motor vehicle is negatively impacted after a day of video calls, with 54 percent strongly agreeing. This is an issue that will continue to impact UK employees as the COVID-19 pandemic has fundamentally altered the way we work and communicate – with video technology integral to this adaptation.

Despite the fact that it is illegal to use handheld mobile phones while driving, these devices still represent a major source of concern. Research has shown that driver reactions are 30 percent slower when using a hands-free phone compared to the reaction time of drivers at the drink-drive limit. This is because, those using a hands-free phone still suffer from what is known as ‘inattention blindness’, in which they may ‘see’ hazards but do not register them.

Further, technology commonly integrated into the driving experience has been shown to be a major source of distraction. For example, a study by RoSPA revealed that 91.4 percent of subjects manipulated music and audio controls while driving, resulting in visual, cognitive, and auditory distractions to the driver. The growing popularity of infotainment systems in cars, built into 80 percent of all newly manufactured vehicles, has shown to increase the likelihood of a driver glancing away from the road by 28 percent, and increased the failure to register relevant events by 35 percent.

It is for these reasons that drivers must make a conscious effort to remain focused while on the road. We suggest that drivers take these simple steps to avoid distracted driving:

  • Pullover if necessary: Anyone who feels they are distracted and not able to drive safely should pull over as soon as possible. Drivers should take time to re-concentrate or resolve the source of their distraction.
  • Download useful apps: There are many apps on the market that are designed to limit drivers from using their phone while driving. These apps work by preventing certain phone functionalities while you drive. For example, LifeSaver blocks text notifications while you drive and disables other features, like access to your phone’s email and camera, while your vehicle is in motion.
  • Driving education: The key to combatting the risk of in-vehicle infotainment systems is to have a complete understanding of when they are appropriate to use, how long is appropriate to use these systems for, and how to minimise the intrusiveness of these systems while driving.

At the Major Trauma Group, we are passionate about road safety and supporting those who have been a victim of road accidents as a result of driver distractions. If you would like a free no-obligation chat with one of our members about our work, please email hello@majortraumagroup.co.uk or call us on 0330 311 2578.

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