Don’t be distracted while driving this festive season

The roads are going to become busier and busier in the next few weeks as schools close and drivers head for their holiday destinations. “Road safety has got to be a priority for everyone as we see thousands of deaths on our roads every festive season. Being distracted while driving is one of the major causes of road accidents and we need to be conscious of this,” says Dewald Ranft, Chairman of the Motor Industry Workshop Association (MIWA), a proud association of the Retail Motor Industry Organisation (RMI).

Any activity that takes a person’s attention away from the main task of driving is considered distracted driving. “Texting or looking at your phone while operating a vehicle remains one of the most dangerous activities but is not the only one,” says Ranft.

There are three types of distractions, namely visual, which is when the driver takes their eyes off the road; manual, a task that requires the driver to take their hands off the steering wheel; and cognitive, when the driver’s mind is not focussed on the task at hand.

These activities could include eating and drinking, grooming, adjusting the radio or talking to passengers, to name just a few. “However, texting is the riskiest activity because it is a visual, manual and cognitive diversion, which means no attention is being paid to the road,” he says.

“When you’re driving, you have to think about a lot of things: your speed, the traffic laws, the direction you’re going in, road conditions, pedestrians, other cars around you. It’s a long list, and if you’re not focussed on the task at hand, there is a greater chance that you’ll be involved in an accident.”

“We need to get off our phones and drive. That should be the only priority. You do not want to become a statistic.”

He says, however, passengers can help too by reminding the driver when their attention is not on the road and assisting them with anything they may need.

Ranft offers these additional tips to ensure safer driving:

  • Don’t read, eat, change clothing or groom yourself while driving.
  • Don’t allow passengers to distract you. Ensure small children are buckled up before departing and if they require attention during the trip, rather pull over to assist them.
  • Don’t let animals roam around the vehicle freely, rather put them in a pet carrier which is properly restrained.
  • Create a playlist with your favourite music so you don’t have to look for songs.
  • Let your friends and family know you will not answer any phone calls or texts while driving.
  • Keep a safe following distance, allowing yourself time to react if required.

“Let’s all work together to make our roads a safer place this festive season,” he concludes.