A road safety event promoting the importance of driver focus showed many motorists find sat-navs and in-car technology the biggest distractions when behind the wheel.
On Friday, 25 August, Northamptonshire Fire and Rescue Service (NFRS) joined colleagues from Derbyshire, Leicestershire and Nottinghamshire Fire and Rescue Services and officers from Highways England to talk to drivers at a number of service stations on the M1 motorway.
Crews from NFRS and the Safer Roads Alliance, a partnership between NFRS, Northamptonshire Police and Northamptonshire Highways, were at the southbound Northampton and the northbound Watford Gap services.
Of the drivers NFRS spoke to, 50 picked their sat-nav or other in-car technology as the biggest culprit for distracting them from the road. A further 45 said stress, emotions, tiredness, daydreaming or road rage distracted them when driving, while 41 said talking to passengers caused them problems.
Sara Postlethwaite of the Safer Roads Alliance said: “It was great to be part of a joint safety event along the M1 corridor, and thanks to the hospitality of Road Chef services we engaged with a wide variety of drivers travelling for leisure and business.
“Talking to people about the issues posed by driver distraction helped many to consider their personal distractions and realise the potential impact they could have.
“We often see reports from road traffic collisions which say ‘for unknown reasons the car left the carriageway’, and whatever those reasons are, they are distractions we want to prevent.”
Other top distractions revealed by the event were drivers looking at passengers/children in the back seat (39 drivers), eating, drinking, doing make-up/hair (35 drivers), and adjusting in-car controls (34 drivers).Only nine people spoken to admitted being distracted as a result of using a handheld mobile phone when driving, versus the 26 who said using their mobile on hands-free was a distraction.
While the former is illegal, carrying a £200 fine and six penalty points, it remains legal to use a hands-free system to make and receive calls, although it must be fully set up before you drive so calls can be taken without touching the handset. Police can still stop drivers if they believe they have been distracted by using a mobile phone, even if it is completely hands-free.
Ms Postlethwaite said: “Preventing mobile phone use is obviously very important because of the risk it poses, but we also wanted drivers to identify with distractions they might not readily think of as problems, the day-to-day issues which compromise road safety.
“Hopefully the conversations we had with drivers will result in them thinking more about their behaviour and making changes to keep themselves, their families and other road users safer.”