"One fifth of driving time is spent on activities that distract the driver. Experts even find that this trend is increasing." - Dr. Christoph Lauterwasser, CEO of the Allianz Center for Technology (AZT)
Technology plays a major role in this increase. Smartphones, tablets, phablets, and other devices mean that drivers and passengers are constantly online with a wealth of information and entertainment at their fingertips.
Technology, however, is not the only cause of driver distraction. Eating, drinking, chatting, music, and external visiual cues all act as distraction as well. With all these distractions combined, it is essential for drivers to avoid fatigue which can further inhibit the drivers ability to concentrate.
The Allianz Center for Technology (AZT) has studied the causes and consequences of distraction. The results revealed the following:
- The trend goes towards more distractions in vehicles
- Drivers underestimate how their mental recources are lost through other activities
- Underestimated sources of distraction
- Quickly fastening the seatbelt: manual activities while driving are huge distractions
- Fiddling with smartphones, navigators or MP3 players: the attraction to technology
- Distraction accompanies you when the car is your second home
- Driver assistance systems can help
Experts have gone so far as to say that it is becoming impossible to ignore how many devices or gadgets – all with multiple functions – drivers take with them, and use, in their cars. And results from the study show that constantly increasing popularity of smartphones and apps and the abundance of other portable electronic devices, is tempting people to use them while actually driving.
According to the study, approximately 20 % of drivers confirm to write text messages or e-mails at the wheel, and 30 % read such messages. Even more alarmingly, these numbers increase in the case of oung and novice drivers.
The extent to which drivers underestimate risks is astonishing. They think that sources of distraction coming from outside the vehicle are far more serious than a loss of attention due to their own behavior. 72 % of drivers reported to feel distracted by events outside the car or by people. Even more felt distracted by landscapes or buildings, says Alianz.
Underestimated sources of distraction are often the highest contributors to drivers loooking away from the road or taking their hands off the wheel. Be it swatting unwanted insects in your vehicle, calming a travelling pet, helping the passengers in the back seat, or vigorous conversation with a travelling companion – all of these distract the driver’s attention from the road.
While distracting activities are often carried out when waiting at red traffic lights (with the intention of not compromising road safety). However according to studies, intersections within busy city centres and industrial areas are a spot where traffic conditions change extremely rapidly. For examply, cyclists, runners and motor cyclists are often not spotted. While waiting at the light, the driver types a number into the cellphone, updates the navigator, or lights a cigarette.
The light then changes to green more quickly than expected, and the driver moves forward before even properly looking at the road. Pressure from other drivers at the light also results in the driver not paying full attention as their neighbouring driver hoots and gestures for them to move through the light and not hold up the queue.
According to Allianz when drivers look for items or grab sliding things, the time spent looking away from the road increases by up to 15%. The risk of accidents increases by over 8 times, as is confirmed by studies such as the US “100 Car Study”.
Check out these helpful tips from Allianz.
The reality is that safety still plays a far too minor a role when buying a car. “From our accident research, we know that investing in safety systems is definitely worth it. Unfortunately, many systems are not yet built into cars as standard. However, thanks to such systems, distraction-related accidents can be reduced in the future,” - Dr. Lauterwasser.