Distractions During Driving

Dr Sanjay Kulshrestha

Conscious Citizens, India

Multitasking behind the wheel can be dangerous.
Distracted driving in its various forms contributes to about 18% of serious or fatal crashes.
Remember : A slight distraction at high speeds can prove fatal !

For safe driving, proper coordination of three systems is extremely necessary viz:
• Eyes – fixed on to the road
• Hands – to have a good grip on the steering
• Mind – should react quickly to any unfavourable situation

An act that affects the efficiency of any one of these three factors can prove to be potentially dangerous.

Distraction No.1- Use of Cell Phone
• Distracted driving due to cell phone has become a dangerous trend on Indian roads and at present this is the most common among all distractions while driving.

• In some countries like USA, statistics indicate that 28% of all car accidents are caused by drivers using cell phones.

• Talking on the mobile can delay our reaction time by 0.5-1.5 seconds and the chances of fatal crashes increase four to five times more than normal !!
• Driving while using a cell phone can reduce brain activity by 37%.
• Many believe that using a mobile phone while driving has the same or even greater risk as that of being drunk [comparable to .08mg/dl of alcohol].

Texting: The MOST dangerous (23 times riskier) among all cell phone related tasks, including talking, dialing, or reading messages on the phone while driving.

• It engages and distracts all three systems i.e. visual[eyes off the road], manual [fingers on key pad] and the brain.

• Sending or receiving a text takes a driver’s eyes off the road for an average of 4.6 seconds, this means you cross about 100 meters length of roads blind !!

Hands-free set cell phone also distracts your mind and is just as dangerous as a hand-held set.
Reason being: Though your hands are free, the concentration power of brain is affected as it becomes inattentive during talking. Hands only follow commands of the brain and if that commander is busy the army will sit idle during any alarming incidence.

Talking while driving a two wheeler is equally, if not more dangerous. It is dangerous even for pedestrians: Walking with phones leads to attention deficit, slowing down of reflexes and make us blind to dangers on the road.

There is a rising concern about many serious health hazards & warnings in relation to cell phones like brain cancer, reduced fertility, sleep disorder, anxiety to mobile ring, etc, etc. – – – – we have yet to report the FIRST death due to cell phone induced brain cancer in the world.

What we can confirm right now is that – – – – – – – – – – approx. 60,000 deaths occur every year due to cell phone related distracted driving all over the world [ a very conservative estimate !]

Distraction No. 2 : Dashboard Dining: With the popularity of fast food, the people are frequently seen eating or drinking during driving. The fast food chains are making changes in their menu and its packaging so that it is better suited for dining while driving.

Eating while driving not only causes distractions but can also complicates the condition of a person after accident by causing choking of respiratory tract due to aspiration of food particle. This choking due to food items in mouth can kill someone instantly !!

Distraction No.3: Adjusting Radio, CD Player or GPS: It is frequently observed that people while driving try to tune in the radio or look for CDs/cassettes in glove compartment that divides their attention.

If you are a ‘highly selective type’ of music lover then it is always better to keep your favourite pieces ready to play before driving. If you have a co-passenger then instruct him to do so.

Distraction No. 4 : Children
• They may distract driver’s attention by playing or talking constantly, throwing toys, frequently changing their seats from front to back or play with the steering or other important levers.
• Sometimes a ball can move forwards in driver’s seat and can be trapped under the brakes.
• Children should be taught car manners just as we teach them table manners.

Distraction No. 5 love-making during driving : [Car as a love nest]
• Although no data are available, it is not infrequent to find love-making during driving as a cause of severe or even fatal accidents on roads. The moving car has been found a safe, easy, cozy and economic place for dating or love-making. In spite of the fact that you are on the road, you enjoy good privacy in a car, which may be even better than in a restaurant.

The intensity of these moments can certainly increase the intensity of accidents !

Distraction No.6: Applying Make-up or combing hair, etc [of course for ladies] Some even feel an irresistible desire for make-up and customize their car accordingly. NOW our traffic police is taking this make-up spree behind the wheel seriously.

Distraction No. 7 : A beautiful lady on the road or on the hoarding may also seriously detract your attention.

Distraction No. 8 : Watching TV while driving or reading including maps
It is difficult to understand how these auto Co.s get permission for installation of such gadgets like TV on dash boards !!  Do our road safety organizations have any role or control over it !

Distraction No. 9 : we often see people lighting a cigarette, belting themselves or co-passengers, repeatedly glancing at wrist watch, etc during driving.

Distraction No. 10 : One peculiar distraction typical in India only, is bowing before the gods to pay their respects while passing through the road side temples.

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