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Distracted at the wheel: Danger!

We tend to underestimate the danger that being distracted at the wheel can pose for ourselves, our passengers and others sharing the road. Many people assume that dangerous driving, driving under the influence and speeding are the main causes of road accidents. It is true that these are more easily identifiable as accident causers, and are more readily picked up by the media. But what about distracted driving?

In fact, results of studies obtained by the Insurance Bureau of Canada reveal that being distracted at the wheel is at the root of 8 out of 10 accidents in North America. Among the principal causes of distraction: mobile phones, radio, GPS systems, MP3 players, even eating or applying makeup.

These studies also showed that the faculties of a driver using his cell phone are just as affected as those of an inebriated driver. Even more disquieting is the fact that there are many times more distracted drivers on the road than inebriated ones. What’s more, the number of different factors that can distract a driver is increasing ever y year. The car insurance industry has responded in recent years by launching ad campaigns to draw attention to the problem of driver distraction.

Driving Requires Your Full Attention
There are already a large number of things you need to think about when at the wheel of a car. Why make your job even more difficult? Never forget that your life and that of others may depend on your ability to focus properly.

A few data points collected by the Insurance Bureau of Canada on driving:

  • At rush hour, the average driver needs to pay attention to no fewer than 3,000 different factors, including traffic signals, other vehicles, pedestrians, road conditions and cyclists. In comparison, a pilot of a fighter plane flying in a non-combat situation must face only 300 factors;
  • One out of two Canadians admits to having eaten food while at the wheel;
  • About 80% of accidents are caused at least in part by driver distraction;
  • When traveling at 50 km/h, a car travels 45 metres in just one second.

Changing Driving Habits
To fight the problem of distraction at the wheel, it is necessary to rethink our behaviour on the road. Here are a few tips to help you become a more attentive driver:

  • Turn off your mobile phone, and wait until you have stopped and pulled over before reviewing your messages;
  • Many of the things you often do behind the wheel could be done before (or after)  you actually operate the car, such as adjusting the temperature, choosing the music, drinking and eating, consulting a road map and applying makeup;
  • If you have a passenger in the car with you, make them your assistant/navigator;
  • If you have children on board, stop the car in a secure place before tending to them.
  • Beware of driver fatigue! Fatigue lowers your ability to focus and your reflex times in the same way that being inebriated does.