Every text, emoji and selfie which captures your attention limits your awareness while driving, putting you and those around you in unnecessary danger, notes Ford Motoring. Yes, even “just one” text can lead to an accident.
“The reality is that every time you pick up your phone while driving, you see and concentrate less. You stop looking around at your environment – in front, behind, to the right and left. Your field of vision shrinks. You don’t even see what’s in front of you,” Ford said.
Research shows that the brain has difficulty processing two tasks simultaneously. It can switch between the tasks but will perform each more slowly. Many people think they can do two things at once – like talking or texting on the phone while driving – but it’s just not possible to concentrate fully on both.
Drivers stop monitoring their environment. And new drivers in particular aren’t in the habit of scanning the road for hazards – with a phone in hand, it’s an even more dangerous combination.
“In my experience of training hundreds of drivers, I’d say that even normal, everyday driving uses around 85% of your mental load. Sending one text or selfie, and even talking with a passenger, can overload the brain while driving – increasing the risk of an accident,” said Derek Kirkby, training director for Ford’s global driving skills for life (DSFL) programme in South Africa.
Further study shows that distracted driving cuts a driver’s field of vision by as much as 50%. This means that drivers don’t “see” important objects which are right in front of them, like red lights, pedestrians and obstacles in the road, putting everyone at risk.
“When you’re using 85% of your brainpower to drive, your mind isn’t capable of doing much else,” said Kirkby. “Regardless of whether you’re a professional or new to the road – you will be a safer driver if you understand how much of your brain you’re using just to drive the car.”
Data on distractions
Experts have identified four main types of driver distractions:
- Visual, like looking at a phone, causing drivers to take their eyes off the road;
- Auditory, such as loud music, causing drivers to miss important sounds;
- Manual, such as eating, causing drivers to take one or more hands off the wheel; and
- Cognitive, like tiredness, causing diminished concentration.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), over 1.25 million people die each year as a result of road traffic crashes and between 20 and 50 million more people suffer non-fatal injuries. They found that drivers using mobile phones are approximately four times more likely to be involved in a crash than drivers not using a mobile phone.