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Distracted driving in SA: 7 worst in-car distractions

2016-04-21 08:36

KEEP YOUR EYES ON THE ROAD: We list 7 in-car distractions that could send you to the hospital or worse in SA. Image: iStock

Johannesburg - Distracted driving  remains a problem in South Africa and will continue to remain a road safety issue unless drastic action is taken, reports the the Automobile Association (AA).

Following an event in Johannesburg focusing on distracted driving in South Africa, the AA believes that action needs to come from government officials but more importantly, says the organisation, "in the form of a change of attitude among drivers".

Alarming results

The AA said: "We brought together a number of journalists to drive in simulators. Once comfortable with the simulators, we tested them without distractions, and then again with distractions. The results are alarming, and clearly indicate that when distracted, drivers’ reaction times are slower, and they are much more prone to crash." 

At the event, journalists were sent sms messages they needed to respond to, and were asked to open and close a water bottle. They were also distracted by being engaged in simple conversation.

READ: Distracted driving in SA - are you guilty?

The AA commented: “We saw that without distractions, the journalists were able to complete a lap of a racing circuit in fairly good times; times recorded for these laps averaged around 1.41 minutes, with hardly any crashes. However, with the distractions these lap times increased to 2.20 minutes, many of them with crashes or the cars spiralling out of control. Although not entirely scientific, the results point to the dangers of having your concentration averted from the road, even for a second.” 

While there are many different distractions that constitute distracted driving, the AA highlights the following as the most prevalent:

1. Talking on cellphones, or texting while driving
2. Eating while driving
3. Putting on ties or other clothing while driving, or changing clothes when driving
4. Applying make-up while driving
5. Looking to the backseat to engage passengers, especially children
6. Setting GPS devices while moving
7. Searching for items in various areas of the car while driving

Distracted drivers filmed behind the wheel:

Attitude change needed in SA

The problem is not purely with the cracking down on offenders who disobey regulations but for motorists to change their attitudes and take responsibility for their actions.

The AA said: "A driver who is talking on a cellphone, or texting while driving, needs to realise that their actions are not only irresponsible but also put the lives of other, law-abiding citizens in jeopardy. They can cause a crash that injures, or worse, kills, other people through their own reckless behaviour. We also want to make these drivers aware that it can happen to them: no-one is immune to the the dangers of being distracted."

The AA believes there is sufficient anecdotal evidence to suggest crashes caused by distracted driving is large enough to warrant urgent intervention by the authorities. The organisation said law enforcement against distracted drivers should be high on the agenda of road traffic officials, beyond stopping road users at on and off ramps who use electronic devices.

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“We urge all drivers to obey the laws, and above all, to be sensible when driving. Put your cellphone in the boot of your car before driving off, and put on your tie or make-up before you get going. If you use a GPS device, set the destination before embarking on your journey. Remember that if you don’t focus on the road, there is a 100% likelihood that you will not avoid a crash while you are distracted,” the AA concluded.

Texting 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).

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.”


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