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Distracted driving in SA: Are you guilty?

2016-03-08 09:45

KEEP YOUR EYES ON THE ROAD: Miwa says distracted driving means more than just texting. It’s any activity that takes a person’s attention away from the main task of driving. Image: iStock

Johannesburg - We might feel powerless when faced with some of the dangers on South Africa’s roads but there is something we can all do to protect ourselves and make the roads a little safer - make sure we’re not distracted while driving.

Are you guilty of texting while driving? Statistics show that many South African drivers text while driving, reports the Motor Industry Workshop Association (MIWA).

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MIWA Les McMaster said: "Texting while operating a vehicle is a seriously dangerous activity, but distracted driving means more than just texting. It’s any activity that takes a person’s attention away from the main task of driving.

“There are three types of distractions, namely visual, which is when the driver takes their eyes off the road; manual, a task that requires the driver to take their hands off the steering wheel; and cognitive, when the driver’s mind is not focused on the task at hand.”

Not paying attention to the road

These activities could include eating and drinking, grooming, adjusting the radio or talking to passengers, to name just a few.

McMaster said: "However, texting is the riskiest activity because it is a visual, manual and cognitive diversion, which means no attention is being paid to the road.”  

According to the National Roads and Motorists Association, drivers who regularly send text messages spend up to 400% more time with their eyes on the phone instead of on the road.

McMaster: said: “When you’re driving, you have to think about a lot of things: your speed, the traffic laws, the direction you’re going in, road conditions, pedestrians, other cars around you. It’s a long list, and if you’re not focussed on the task at hand, there is a greater chance that you’ll be involved in an accident.”

For many of us, our car has become our mobile office, so changing these habits can be difficult.

However, this is not a strong enough case for putting yourself and other drivers at risk, believes McMaster: “Making driving safely your priority while in your vehicle is the first step in the right direction. It’s really a matter of being disciplined and appreciating the risks involved.

"Passengers can also help drivers remain focussed by reminding them when their attention is not on the road and assisting them with anything they may need.”

Image: iStock

MIWA offers these tips for safer driving:

 • Don’t read, eat, change clothing or groom yourself while driving.
 • Don’t allow passengers to distract you. Ensure small children are buckled up before departing and if they require attention during the trip, rather pull over to assist them.
 • Don’t let animals roam around the vehicle, rather put them in a pet carrier which is properly restrained.
 • Create a playlist with your favourite music so you don’t have to search for songs.
 • Let your friends and family know you will not answer any phone calls or texts while driving.
 • Keep a safe following distance giving yourself time to react if required.

He concludes: "Let’s all work together to make our roads a safer place.”

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