HANDS up anyone who would like to have more hours in the day?
For the vast majority of people the answer would most definitely be yes.
These days we seem to be busier than ever before, which means we're constantly rushing around everywhere just to get things done. The chances are that in the future this situation is only going to get more intense.
Unfortunately, with the pressures of daily life being what they are, it seems that we're more or less expected to be able to do more than one thing at a time.
This "multi-tasking" culture also continues when we get behind the wheel and that's a big problem.
Various research studies and road crash data suggest that inattention is one of the leading factors when it comes to traffic crashes. In fact it rates second place after disobeying the road rules. Clearly it is a major problem.
A recent report from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in the United States indicated that inattention was a contributing factor in about 25% of police reported road crashes. Even so, it's not something that most people would generally consider as a risk when they get behind the wheel.
Like fatigue, it's harder to pin down because we are dealing with individual risk perception and human behaviour. It's also not something that you can easily enforce, so dealing with it really comes down to better education.
So what is inattention? It basically means being distracted from the task at hand. I'm sure we've all seen other drivers, and possibly even ourselves, doing things that distract us from the driving task.
Programming the satellite navigation unit, putting in a new CD, day dreaming, checking out attractive pedestrians, writing a note in the diary, yelling at the kids, looking at the street map, getting dressed, putting on makeup, eating, drinking and even reading the paper are just a few examples.
Each of these activities takes our focus off the primary task which is driving the vehicle.
But by far the worst offender of them all would have to be a driver using a mobile phone. Research has proven that using a mobile phone while you're driving is a major distraction that will significantly increase your risk of having a crash.
A mobile conversation takes your attention off driving and will reduce your ability behind the wheel significantly. You'll find it more difficult to control your speed and lane position. It will also reduce your eye movements, increase your reaction time and make you less responsive to road hazards.
This applies to any mobile conversation regardless of whether it is hands free or not.
Sending or receiving a text message is worse still. It has all the downsides we've already covered and will dramatically increase the time that the person has their eyes off the road.
The best advice is, don't use a mobile phone while you're driving. In fact if your engine is on, turn your mobile off.
When you're behind the wheel you need to focus on just one job, driving the car.
Everything else is a distraction that could have catastrophic consequences.
As much as we'd like to, we can't split our concentration between two tasks, we're just not programmed that way. Remember that it's not possible for us to do two things at once without compromising your focus. Doing so means that you are a crash going somewhere to happen.
Russell White's experience in the driver training industry spans more than 24 years. He is widely regarded as one of Australia's leading road safety advocates. His business offers the complete range of driver training and fleet management services, visit driversafety.com.au
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