“Up to 80 percent of all crashes involve some form of driver distraction.” FocusDriven
It’s amazing the amount of information a modern driver needs to quickly and efficiently process and act on when driving. These include the vehicles around you, traffic signs, vehicle dashboards, pedestrians, cyclists, hazards, road works just to name a few. Recent studies have shown that just listening to someone speak leads to a decrease in brain activation associated with driving.
The list of things that have been vying for our attention (and leading to distraction) whilst driving have also been growing at quite some rate. Longtime existing distractions such as billboards, passengers and navigation assistants have been further compounded by more and more complex vehicle dashboards.
But in this world of distraction, there is still a clear leader as the ultimate scourge of safe driving: your smartphone. That small yet extremely powerful and addictive device in your pocket is responsible for 1 out of every 4 car accidents in the United States. Individuals who drive while sending or reading text messages are 23 times more likely to be involved in a car crash than other drivers.
“Visual and auditory distracters reduce the extent of the useful field of view, and these effects are exacerbated in inferior and peripheral locations. This result has significant ramifications for road safety in an increasingly complex in-vehicle and driving environment.” Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science
The demands on the modern driver can even tip into full-blown sensory overload. “Sensory overload happens when you’re getting more input from your five senses than your brain can sort through and process” Healthline.
The side effects of sensory overload can include extreme irritability, restlessness, discomfort and feeling “wound up”, stress, fear, or anxiety about your surroundings and even an urge to cover your eyes! Any of these side effects, let alone just engaging with something other than driving, can significantly deteriorate one's ability to drive safely.
In the early days of Brightmile, we were even guilty of trialling some app features which could have lead to further distraction. We briefly tested visual messages to inform drivers of risk events and speeding. However, even with a well-placed smartphone, the small possibility of becoming a distraction meant that we have exclusively focused on providing feedback to drivers whilst they are not driving.
Here is a handy list of things you should consider to reduce the likelihood of distracted driving:
Avoid using your smartphone (cellphone) - If you’re using it for navigation, set this up before you start driving. If you have to use/interact with your phone then pull over to do this.
Set your phone to silence notifications whilst driving so you are less likely to be curious about the latest message or post.
If possible, reduce or avoid the number of hands-free calls you take.
Ensure things like the radio do not become a distraction whilst driving. For example taking your eyes off the road to change a CD.
Take regular breaks while driving. Aim to take one at least every two hours for at least 10 minutes, getting out to stretch your legs if it is safe to do so. If you’re feeling drowsy then pull off the road.
If you’re feeling any of the symptoms of ‘sensory overload’ then also consider taking a break from driving.
Ask your passengers to be mindful of the ‘driver’ and ask them to minimise the distraction they cause.
Do your multitasking outside the car. Driving should not be seen as an opportunity to do other tasks. Only a very small number of activities may actually be beneficial to driving during a monotonous driving activity.
Don’t eat whilst you're driving. A break to eat food will also give you an opportunity to have a rest
There are solutions on the market to lock your phone whilst driving to try to block distraction but at Brightmile we believe that helping you understand your cellphone distraction, how regularly you take breaks and rewarding you for improving leads to a longer term positive behaviour change. It may seem strange to consider but your smartphone could actually be the solution to tackling smartphone distraction!