Another driving distraction highlighted

PETER LOUISSON
Last updated 13:14 18/04/2012

No surprise to read in this morning's newspaper that eating is identified as yet another distraction when driving. As I'm sure everyone was already aware. Good to have it quantified though. Both drinking and eating were found to slow reaction times, significantly, and more so than drinking alcohol up to the legal limit. Putting two and two together, it's likely we will soon be banned from eating and drinking (of soft drinks) while driving. What's next? Banned from reading the newspaper or shaving or applying eyeliner while driving? Or disciplining the children or stroking the dog at the wheel?

What's needed is for drivers simply not to drive any more. Soon we won't have to. Technology is now sufficiently up to snuff that car makers have self-driving cars operating successfully. Expense will be the limiting factor, not the ability of the vehicle to actually negotiate traffic hazards on its own. Computers don't eat or drink or get distracted, unless they freeze and are unable to enact a control-alt-delete manoeuvre automatically before crashing.

It's little wonder people keep slamming into each other on congested city streets and motorways. I continue to be surprising, disappointed and a bit depressed at how many recalcitrant Kiwis still regard it as a god-given right to yabber away on their cellphones while driving or, worse, surreptitiously txt away while in control of a motor vehicle. At least most are now sensible enough to pull over and make their calls while parked, rather than forge on and put everyone else at risk. Folk should realise that headset devices can be bought for less than the cost of being pinged once, and speakerphone devices cost $150-odd. Not that these ensure zero distraction when used while driving - reaction times are still decreased by around 25 per cent -  but they're an improvement on holding a phone up to one's ear, and essentially zoning out on the actual task of driving.

People eat and drive about the same amount as they talk on their cellphones while driving, studies suggest. So should eating while driving be banned? If, as the article suggests, it's the eighth most distracting thing you can do at the wheel, and it virtually halves reaction time, well then perhaps it needs to be considered. The trouble is, it's one thing to be eating an apple or a snack while driving and another to be chowing down on a footlong sub. It's really a matter of being sensible about things. It's best not to eat or do anything that distracts in bumper-to-bumper, bump-and-grind traffic. If what you're eating requires two hands to consume without messing yourself, pull over to eat it. It doesn't take long to eat lunch or a snack, and taking a break from doing anything that's time consuming and risky is always a good thing.

Simply driving some modern cars can be distracting. Don't even think about trying to sync your cellphone to Bluetooth while on the move; many (but not all modern cars) won't permit you to do this anyway. Anything with a computer-driven mouse system to control minor functions or alter car setup parameters is terribly distracting, as you have to take your eyes off the road and shift focus between the screen and the controller. Again, it's crazy to do this on the go, and most vehicles will prompt you to park up and sort it. Another serious distraction is messing with the iPod, even if it's in a car with an integrated system.

Many believe they can multitask as well as the next person. But you only need to have one mishap to know how dangerous driving while distracted can be. Sure, it may only be a fender-bender in heavy traffic but if you multitask on the open road at higher speeds where bad things can happen much more quickly, you could conceivably end up facing manslaughter charges.

When you tally up the list of what's possibly distracting it's clear that when driving we should only be driving. If anything else comes up, probably best to park up and sort it with the car stopped.

9 comments
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Richard   #1   02:56 pm Apr 18 2012

It's not that hard to do other things while you're driving, if you aren't rubbish at it in the first place.

Set up your car properly so you don't take your eyes off the road. Get a decent handsfree if your car doesn't have an integrated one. Don't text. If you're going to eat food, make it something simple you can eat without messing with it too much. You can eat an apple or a chocolate bar or other simple foods while looking at the road just fine. Make some playlists you can use while driving so you don't have to mess with the iPod every 5 seconds. If your car has steering wheel mounted controls for your ipod, great! If not, invest in a decent stereo that comes with a separate remote.

This stuff isn't rocket science.

Mike   #2   03:26 pm Apr 18 2012

I hear that breathing and blinking are to be banned while driving....

andrew   #3   07:37 pm Apr 18 2012

If the muppets have their way, picking your nose, scratching your balls and useing anything other than an electric button to put your window up will be banned.

james   #4   07:32 am Apr 19 2012

Surely it's a good thing to reduce reaction times by 25% We should all be made to talk on pseakerphones while we drive.

Karlos   #5   11:21 am Apr 19 2012

The other day a wasp flew into my car through the drivers side window and landed on me which almost caused me to crash. Death to all wasps is the only solution.

Tim   #6   04:52 pm Apr 25 2012

I like where this is going..... soon we will not be allowed to carry passengers, we will not be allowed stereo's, we will not be allowed pillars, side mirrors, arm rest and supressors in our exhausts... single seater open wheelers on the public roads... yes please. I'd happily have no 'distractions' on my drive to work.. 208km, 4 stop signs twice a week. I don't need distractions, I love my drive. Yes please... oh I said that.

cm   #7   01:40 pm May 11 2012

It is already illegal to drive while distracted for any reason.

The cellphone ban was stupid because it focused on a technology and not on behaviour.

If I drive while fiddling with the music function on an iphone I can be pinged under the cellphone laws. But those laws don't apply if I do exactly the same thing with an ipod touch even though they uses exactly the same software and have exactly the same UI.

Tony   #8   04:47 pm Jul 31 2012

Andrew (#3) - And why not? If you are in the drivers seat, you should have both hands firmly on the wheel and both eyes focused on what is ahead and around you. Anything else is careless use of a motor vehicle. Dangerous driving? Yes, probably. It's not a game out there any more, you muppet. there are far too many drivers out ther who are distracted/drunk/pilled up/tired/showing off, or just think they're a better driver than they really are.

If you want to drive with one hand on the wheel and the other one scratching your scrotum, take it to a racetrack.

jj   #9   02:02 pm Sep 03 2012

What has reaction times got to do with distractions, other than the obvious. reaction times are not key factors in car accidents, it's what the reaction is !. when you start teaching people about tyres and weight transfer then that will be worth a read

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