Does driver distraction play a part in your motoring life? Are you a habitual nose-picker during the morning rush hour? Do you put on lipstick or brush your hair in traffic? Maybe you air-drum to your favourite tune on the radio? Or perhaps you reach for the electric shaver and smarten up on the way to a meeting?
Of course, as a responsible law-abiding driver, you’re shaking your head in disbelief: none of these descriptions rings true for you. However, according to a new survey, there are plenty of other drivers who do engage in deadly in-car habits.
Who’s not been paying attention?
IAM RoadSmart, the road safety charity that has been campaigning for better driving and riding skills since 1956, had a hunch that not everyone was as focused as they should be on the potentially deadly task of driving their car.
It asked more than 2300 people (75 per cent were IAM RoadSmart members) to share examples of the worst distractions they’d witnessed on the road. The results were alarming.
Based on feedback provided, Britain’s drivers seem perfectly happy to use their car as a dining table, hair salon or office desk…
Are they doing all this while driving?
Indeed they are. All the bad habits and dodgy distractions have been spotted while the third party was actively trying to guide their car along busy roads. Next time you go to step out at a pedestrian crossing, be certain the driver isn’t busy finishing their breakfast…
What’s the most common driver distraction?
Fine – well, not-so-fine – dining topped the bad habits. Eating while behind the wheel had been witnessed by 95 per cent of respondents.
Astonishingly, this is despite the fact that drivers can be prosecuted. Should eating or drinking while driving cause a distraction, the police can prosecute drivers for careless driving. The charge comes with a three point fine on the driver’s licence and £100 penalty.
In 2016, Elsa Harris was prosecuted for eating a banana, despite being in stationary traffic, after a police officer saw both her hands leave the steering wheel.
What else was driving motorists to distraction?
Drinking and smoking also jointly topped the most common distractions among drivers. Perhaps that goes some way to explaining the demise of the British pub…
Any other bad habits spotted on our roads?
Plenty. Children have lots to answer for, apparently. More than 80 per cent of people have seen drivers not paying attention because they’ve been busy telling off their kids.
Perhaps a growing trend is the use of a laptop or tablet when at the wheel. Amazingly, 63 per cent of people have witnessed a driver use one on the road.
It’s tempting to imagine more people would style their hair than use a computer. But the survey showed that only 55 per cent of people had spotted this bad habit among other drivers.
Other worrying things being done behind the wheel include controlling a pet (46 per cent), shaving (24 per cent), and reading a book (thankfully, just three per cent).
What do the IAM experts say about this?
The road safety charity is trying to make drivers aware of the dangers, It has produced a light-hearted film with a serious message featuring Darren Turner, one of Britain’s most successful racing drivers.
Sarah Sillars, IAM RoadSmart chief executive officer, said: “We understand that the pressures of modern life mean we cannot always keep our cool, especially when children and pets often don’t understand the concept of ‘concentration’.
“But it is exactly in these situations that a tragedy can occur. As far as the other bad habits revealed in the survey, these are all things that should be done at either end of the journey – not during it. Otherwise they can be a major distraction to the driver.”