We hear frequently about distraction factors and how they are a major cause of road crashes. A lot of IAM RoadSmart research looks into the causes of distraction and what can be done to prevent them.
Our award-winning Safely Home campaign a few years back brought this into sharp focus. The survey found the most common distractions were: children in the car (29%), changing the radio channel (27%), back seat drivers (26%), mobile phone use (24%) and satellite-navigation system (15%).
So what is the answer? We are not suggesting selling off your beloved offspring, so that’s out! And we fully understand children don’t understand the concept of ‘wait until we get there to show me your painting’ so we sympathise with how kids can be a distraction.
As far as back seat drivers go (who are adults) it is easy to tell them ‘no I cannot look at that now’ or ‘I am driving, can you let me concentrate.’ If you cannot say that to you passenger … why not?
Racing driver Kimi Raikkonen became famous for saying: “Leave me alone, I know what I’m doing!” when having to listen to a barrage of messages from his Lotus pit crew during the 2012 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix – so much so, you can find the phrase on t-shirts and shopping bags.
The other items on the Safely Home list are all technology based. So we have to ask the question: why are carmakers stuffing their vehicles full of distracting technology that most of us don’t really need?
I see TV ads full of connect this with that, connect your phone to your dashboard, connect your music to your car, and on and on. I’m sorry, but why do we need this? Why is it now so important to connect your personal playlist to your car? Let’s face it, your taste in music is not that good!
Why can’t carmakers disable the connectivity function so you can’t use all that nonsense? While we are at it, the technology exists to disable a smartphone in the car – why isn’t this happening? There is no good reason why anyone has to make a phone call from the car.
At the risk of sounding like an old person, up until the mid-90s we managed perfectly fine without a mobile phone in our pockets; we certainly don’t need them now in our cars. No doubt people will say ‘what about an emergency?’
Truth be told, how many ‘emergencies’ do we face from day to day? Is it too hard to stop safely, switch off the engine (yes you have to do this too by law) and make that call?
It’s pretty clear to me that people cannot be trusted to use technology responsibility in a car. So maybe it’s time that decision is taken out of their hands?
And until that time, feel free to use the words of the great Mr Raikkonen next time your passenger talks too much and distracts you from the task at hand!
By Rodney Kumar, IAM RoadSmart senior communications executive