The Most Common Distractions While Driving and How to Deal with Them

Written by John

On February 8, 2021
distractions while behind the wheel

Have you ever been distracted whilst driving? Most of us have been. But losing your focus when behind the wheel can have incredible serious consequences.

According to the latest figures from the Department for Transport:

  • In 2018 there was 12,616
  • In 2019 there was 12,197 accidents in which some form of impairment or distraction played a role.

So, which are the most common distractions to avoid while driving?

Driving with Kids in the Car

driving with kidsAny parent will tell you that driving with children in the back is a completely different journey than just having adults in the car. This is not just because you have to listen to the same Baby Shark type song over and over.

It is all too easy for children to become upset, maybe because they are uncomfortable, bored or arguing with each other. Trying to keep them entertained and dealing with other issues they have whilst you are driving can easily lead to accidents.

The key is being prepared. Try making sure the kids have something to occupy them during the journey, whether that’s a comic, food or something to listen to.

Try and make plans to stop several times on your journey, especially if it is a long drive, so they can get out and stretch their legs.

Backseat Drivers

There are not many of us who have not been distracted by a backseat driver in the past.

While their interventions may be well intentioned, having constant ‘advice’ from your passengers can affect your concentration.

This can be a cause of anxiety on the driver and interfere with how they drive and react to situations.

But let’s look at it another way. Think carefully on this part; could your driving be causing the passenger some form of anxiety? Not everyone is a confident passenger.

Do they get travel sick?

Speaking to them before the journey about that you find the constant advice from the back is distracting to you as you are driving and what can you do to help them be distracted from your driving or the journey?

Can they select the radio station or podcast episode to keep them entertained and quiet?

Using Your Mobile

using your phone while driving Would it surprise you to know one in four drivers admitted to using their mobile whilst driving? It should go without saying how dangerous that is!

Data from the Department for Transport found that there were 17 road deaths where a driver being distracted by their mobile was a factor in 2019, and a further 113 people were seriously injured, compared to 25 deaths and 92 seriously injured in 2018.

The government doubled the punishment for being caught using a mobile phone while driving. Those caught doing so now face a £200 fine and six points on their licence.

You are twice as likely to have a crash whilst texting and driving than when comparing drink driving. 

Driving is one of the riskiest things we do, and combining this with all the amazing functionality of modern smartphones is a recipe for disaster.

You should put the phone in the glove box out of sight. Plus use the Apple function ‘Do not disturb whilst driving’.

Trying to Follow the Satnav

Satellite navigation (satnav) systems are supposed to make life easier for drivers.

You no longer have to memorise routes, have notes on when and where to turn. They can have live updates on traffic giving you alternative routes to take.

However, the satnav can prove a significant distraction for motorists, especially if you are trying to input a destination on the move.

It’s much easier – and safer – to get it all set up before you set off.

You should familiarise yourself with the route, and likely diversions, beforehand, the satnav’s instructions should prove even less distracting.

Overloading Your Car

Whilst you may not think this will be a distraction. You will be surprised to find it can be.

Loading up your car to the point where you cannot see out of your mirrors, or can’t properly drive, is not just distracting: it is dangerous.

Changing the Radio Station

Did you know around a quarter of drivers have been distracted from the road ahead by fiddling about with the car radio?

Whether it’s switching stations or changing the CD, getting the right musical accompaniment to your drive can cause you to lose concentration and ultimately lead to accidents. Not to mention the smart connected consoles that link to your phone and give you a lot of podcast episodes to choose from…

Wearing Headphones

headphones and driving According to the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (ROSPA), not enough focus is being paid to how distracted drivers can become when wearing headphones behind the wheel.

Not only can this mean they aren’t paying enough attention to the conditions around them, they can result in much slower reactions to external events, which can be particularly serious when travelling at speed.

You may also not hear the sirens of the emergency vehicle approaching or from what direction.

Eating and Drinking

A third of drivers have admitted to either eating or drinking something while driving.

Surely It does not take that long to finish off that sandwich before your set off, as doing it whilst driving can cause you to take your eyes off the road and slow your reactions.

There is also the issue of food and drink accidentally spilling onto your clothes, taking your attention completely off the road if it is hot, or even having you trying to find the bit you dropped.

Fixing Your Make-up

Amazingly, 5% of drivers say that they have applied some form of cosmetics while driving.

Doing this is simply asking for trouble.

Being a little bit more prepared, and finishing getting ready before starting your journey, will ensure you don’t drive with such distractions.

If you are a few minutes late, it is better than not turning up at all because you had to get the perfect look getting distracted whilst driving and got involved in an accident.

There is one message within all of this. Drive whilst driving. Do not let distractions cause you to be in a road traffic incident or not making it to your destination at all.


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