Distracted driving: Break the habit
Despite almost 90 per cent of WA drivers acknowledging the danger of texting while driving, more than half of drivers admit they use their phone while driving.
The Industry Road Safety Alliance South West has adapted a series of cognitive brain tests that aim to help drivers break this dangerous habit.
Drivers distracted by their phone can experience difficulty staying in their lane, slower reactions and braking and less awareness of their surroundings.
Texting or talking on the phone can reduce your field of vision and impair your ability to judge distances and gaps in traffic. Drivers can fail to see up to half of the things that they would have seen had they not been talking on the phone.
The odds of getting into a crash are four times higher when using a phone while driving, which is equivalent to the risk of driving at a blood alcohol level of 0.08.
And the odds of crashing while texting is eight times higher than driving without distraction.
So, why do drivers continue to drive distracted?
Despite clear evidence to the contrary, many drivers assume they can successfully perform multiple tasks simultaneously.
There are four broad types of driver distraction, including visual distraction (taking your eyes off the road), physical distraction (taking your hands off the steering wheel), auditory distraction (sounds competing for attention) and cognitive distraction (taking your mind off the driving task).
Texting, social media and many other modern mobile phone uses are especially dangerous as they can cause drivers to become distracted visually, physically, aurally and cognitively at the same time.
Mobile phone distraction can be especially hard to resist due to cognitive addiction developing from our phones’ constant demands for attention.
Drivers often also underestimate how long they spend using their phone and how distracted they are.
The world record for the fastest time to type a standard two-sentence text message on a touch-screen mobile phone is 17 seconds.
A car travelling 100 kilometres per hour can travel almost 500 metres, or the length of three football fields, in this time.
Even if your eyes are off the road for just two seconds, a car travelling a more modest 60 kilometres per hour covers more than 30 metres.
What’s the safest option?
By law, a driver in WA can touch a mobile phone in a secure mounting to accept or end a call but talking on your mobile phone legally via hands-free is also a distraction.
Some mobile phone manufacturers have inbuilt technology that stops incoming calls and texts while you are driving, and there are apps and devices that block mobile phone activity in the car.
Switch your phone to silent and put it out of reach in the glove box or back seat, but the safest option is to turn your mobile phone off before you get behind the wheel.
How can you break the habit?
The Industry Road Safety Alliance has adapted four cognitive tests to help motorists break the distracted driving habit.
The tests have been adapted from a series of neuroscience-based experiments that drivers can try for themselves in their cars.
The tests range from an imaginary driving instruction to acknowledging other road users.
The tests are designed to help drivers turn off their busy brains so that they can concentrate on the road.
For more information, or to try the tests for yourself, check out the Break the Habit campaign materials.