If you didn’t know that this month marks eighty years since the driving test was first introduced in Britain, you do now. Learning to drive is one of those things most young people find themselves itching to do as soon as possible and nobody can blame you. After all, public transport’s pretty pathetic sometimes, so passing your driving test is a rite to passage, giving you freedom to go anywhere, any time.
Driving is also one of the most dangerous things a person can do, especially if you’re a young and inexperienced driver. Statistics show that most young people under the age of 20 who lose their lives do so as a result of car crashes. Becoming distracted behind the wheel can be lethal, which BBC news presenter Sian Lloyd discovered when she spent a day in my home town of Skipton, meeting some students from Craven College who were using a driving simulator to learn more about road safety.
PC Ken Riley from North Yorkshire Police revealed to Sian that he has attended two fatal road accidents in the last year that were the result of distractions. PC Riley stressed how dangerous it is to use a mobile phone behind the wheel, which is unfortunately something he still sees on a regular basis, along with other actions such as people eating, brushing their hair, applying makeup and even a lorry driver stood up scratching his bottom, making him swerve all over the place.
Twenty percent of young drivers have a collision within six months of passing their test, according to the Department for Transport. Think of five friends and ponder on what that means. One of them will have a crash less than a year after passing their test.
This week is Road Safety Week from the Chief Fire Officers Association. Their website stresses how dangerous passengers can also be when they cause a distraction or become distracted themselves. The CFOA’s message is that just because you can multitask at home, texting and using social media while you’re watching TV, it doesn’t mean you can do so behind the wheel. They break distractions down into three groups which are easy to understand:
- Visual distractions: taking your eyes off the road ahead
- Manual distractions: taking your hands off the steering wheel
- Cognitive distractions: taking your mind off driving
Using a mobile phone for texting, social media, sat nav or phone calls involves all three types of distraction, so is a recipe for disaster.
A survey by Ford found that over a third of British drivers might be inclined to take a selfie whilst driving and out of the 7,000 smartphone users aged 18-24 who took part in the poll, a quarter admitted to having used social media sites at the wheel, young male drivers the worst culprits. Ford’s research concluded that taking a selfie on the move could distract a driver for 14 seconds, which is long enough to travel the length of five football pitches if you travelled at 60mph. Scary stuff. Watch this YouTube video to see just how awful the consequences of texting and being distracted whilst driving can be. It’s graphic but needs to be seen.
To stay safe, program your sat nav before you set off and pair your phone with Bluetooth if it’s available in your car. If you’re hungry or thirsty, eat or drink before you set off and don’t do so at the wheel. If you’re late for college or work but haven’t brushed your hair or put your makeup on, wait til you park up at your destination, and if your passengers get a bit rowdy, pull over somewhere safe and explain to them that they were distracting you. It’s far better to stay safe than risk your life and other people’s for the sake of a munching a burger, smoking a cigarette or looking at a text message you can’t wait to read.