Unanticipated Driver Distractions to be Aware of While on the Road

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Distracted Driving

A recent, somewhat jarring TV ad campaign about the consequences of distracted driving began its run this month in Canada. Focused on the texting-while-driving epidemic, the campaign serves as a reminder to put the phone down while behind the wheel. However, not all distractions are as obvious. There are other actions that may interfere with your performance on the road, ones that can have consequences that impact your health, public safety, and insurance claims alike. Today, Park Insurance is reminding you and our valued community about the other distractions that you may not be aware of while on the road.

4 Less-Obvious Distractions You Want to be Conscious of While Driving

1. The Internet of Things

The internet of things (IoT) includes all sorts of digital bells and whistles that can be operated hands-free. Automobile manufacturers are adding these functions and capabilities to your car, and touting Bluetooth technology as the savior from distracted driving. However, a July 2016 study from the University of Sussex provides evidence that the use of hands-free devices does not translate to safe driving.

“Hands-free can be equally distracting because conversations cause the driver to visually imagine what they’re talking about. This visual imagery competes for processing resources with what the driver sees in front of them on the road.” (Dr Graham Hole, University of Sussex)

The recent study details nothing new. Numerous consumer reports have been saying the same for years, including one from the AAA stating that infotainment devices are a “looming public safety crisis”. Internet-enabled navigational and safety features aside, leave your use of IoT for outside of your vehicle.

2. Your Passengers

The Washington Post recently reported on one of the more surprising results of distracted driving studies. It seems that your friends or family serve as one of the biggest culprits. Within their June 2016 article they referenced a U.S. Department of Transportation study that explicitly states that conversing with a passenger was found as a top factor among non-driving activities that provided an internal source of distraction. The following NHTSA graph shows the percentage distribution of driver distractions inside of the vehicle:

Distracting Passengers

It may not win you any popularity contests, but it seems you need to ask your passengers to talk amongst themselves, and let you drive until you reach your destination.

3. Negative Thoughts

The very same U.S. Department of Transportation study also described an interesting but less obvious trait in distracted driving. The role of non-driving cognitive activities. While “inattentiveness” leads the way to distracted driving at 43.3%, other very significant cognitive activities follow. For example, mental focus on personal (23.6%), family (16.8%), and financial (2.1%) problems in addition to stress regarding up and coming events such as a wedding or work presentation (7.6%) impede your ability to drive. An argument preceding your drive also presents a barrier (2.5%) to safe driving.

While it may not be easy, take a deep breath before stepping into your car, clear your mind, and leave your stress at home or at the office. The last thing you need is an accident to add to the list of personal concerns in your life. Think happy thoughts, then go.

4. Adjusting, Anything

Another primary yet less-obvious distraction comes from making adjustments that are seemingly natural to the driving process. Sure, you know by now not to touch anything such as your mobile device, make-up compact, or cafe mocha while behind the wheel (right?), but reaching for your vehicle’s controls can also lead to an accident. Making the Ministry of Transportation’s list of driver distractions is the manual adjustment of controls which include audio, climate, seating, and rearview mirrors, all of which you may consider to be a normal part of driving. Save these quick adjustments for the next red light (not stop sign, which doesn’t provide the adequate amount of time) or better yet, for when you’re parked.

Looking for travel insurance this summer? Great rates on automobile insurance? Greater Vancouver residents (and beyond) are encouraged to contact Park Insurance to learn more.

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