Drivers are busy eating, grabbing the phone, texting or doing something other than watching the road 10% of the time of they’re behind the wheel, a US study found, and not surprisingly, it leads to crashes, especially among newly licensed teenage drivers.
Using a mobile phone remains the biggest danger.
Researchers from America’s National Institutes of Health and Virginia Tech used in-vehicle video and sensors to monitor driving habits and found experienced drivers were more than twice as likely to crash or have a near miss when dialling mobiles, but did not have an increased risk while engaging in other tasks.
Talking on the mobile wasn’t a problem for teenagers or adults. However, that was preceded by the risk moment – answering or dialling.
While adults seem to able to handle a burger in one hand and the steering wheel in the other, the danger for novice drivers was high when it came to such distractions.
The researchers found new drivers were:
The conclusions came from an analysed video installed in 150 cars in the Washington DC and south-western Virginia areas over 12 to 18 months. A quarter of the drivers had had their license for no more than three weeks.The remaining ranged in age from 18 to 72 and had, on average, 20 years of experience and
Sensors recorded acceleration, sudden braking or swerving, drifting from a lane and other data. When a crash occurred, or there was a near miss, the researchers documented whether the drivers were engaged in a distracting activity. They ranged from talking, dialling or reaching for a phone, reaching for another object in the car, adjusting temperature or radio controls, eating, drinking, looking at a crash or something else outside the car, or adjusting mirrors, seatbelts or windows and compared the frequency of these activities when a crash or near miss occurred to their frequency during segments of uneventful driving.
“These distracting practices are especially risky for novice drivers, who haven’t developed sound safety judgement behind the wheel,” said study co-author Dr Bruce Simons-Morton of the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.
The research backed the push for restrictions on texting and mobile phone use in vehicles, he said. “As new forms of technology increasingly are available in cars, it’s important that drivers don’t feel compelled to answer every incoming call or text.”
The study was published in the New England Journal of Medicine last week.
In Australia, road safety authorities are using a cheeky double entendre to try and get the message across. This is the latest ad from Transport for NSW.
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