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Distracted driving can get you killed

Being preoccupied behind the wheel of your car is just as dangerous as trying to multitask by using your mobile phone.

Gulf News

It is so easy to do. You are driving along quite happily, the road is clear, the sun is shining and you are almost on auto-pilot. You think of a message to send to someone and so you pick up your phone and start texting.

You know that you are taking your eye off the road and you know you shouldn't be texting but there is not much traffic around, so why not?

Sound familiar? Can you really say that you have never done this before? Maybe you are one of the few who can put their hands on their heart and say "never" but there are many others who would quietly put up their hands and admit to this one.

I read a very sad story, in the Huffington Post, of Emy Brochu from Montreal, Canada who died while driving. The police investigation showing that her death was attributed to texting while driving. How very sad to think of a young person's life so quickly coming to an end in such a tragic way.

And yet, I see so many people speaking on their phones without it being hands-free, or texting in the same way as Emy was doing when she sadly lost her life.

Losing concentration

We know that accidents can happen very quickly. One moment the road is clear and the next moment, a child runs out. I was driving on the motorway the other day in the slow lane and in front of me a car had a tyre blow-out causing it to spin out of control. I quickly slowed down to a stop, put on my hazard warning lights to stop the traffic behind me and, luckily, there was no pile-up.

After the car stopped spinning, the driver emerged with his three small children. We all sat back in amazement that no one was hurt. However, had my concentration not been on the road, it might have been a very different story. It certainly shook me up with what might have happened under other circumstances.

So why do we lose concentration at vital moments? Can time pressures and stress get in the way or are we just used to being busy all the time that we find it difficult to switch-off maybe by listening to a favourite CD or radio channel?

Sarah, a colleague of mine was having a bad day. She was stressed and late for a meeting and, by her own admission, was totally preoccupied with a row that she had just had with her husband just before leaving the home.

She was not concentrating on what she was doing and in particular she was not taking note of road signs. Importantly she missed a speed restriction and the result was a speeding fine and penalty points on her licence which in turn increased her insurance costs.

Multitasking

Being preoccupied behind the wheel of your car is just as dangerous as trying to multitask by using your mobile phone. Accidents happen in a split second and when we are behind the wheel of our car our mind needs to concentrate solely on driving.

Multitasking may be fine in the safe environment of the home or office but driving a car requires our undivided attention. There is no doubt that the seductive ping of a text or email arriving on our phone is hard for many to resist.

So how do you deal with the temptations of technology in your car and do you leave the stress of work firmly in the office, when you arrive home?

Here are my favourite tips:

  • Switch your phone to "silent mode" when driving so that you do not hear alerts
  •  If you have a hands-free phone, keep your calls short and your mind on your driving
  •  Keep your iPad switched off and in its case on the back seat, well out of reach!
  • Do not get in your car and drive when you are angry or emotional. Take time to compose yourself before turning the key in the ignition
  • Driving at speed requires all your attention. If you choose to drive fast (within speed limits!) make sure you are not distracted by technology.

The author is a BBC Guest-Broadcaster and Motivational Speaker. She is CEO of an international Stress Management consultancy and her new book, ‘Show Stress Who’s Boss!’ is available in all good bookshops.

 

Useful tips

  • Texting on the phone in the car can kill
  • Driving requires complete concentration
  • Our audio and visual senses need to be synchronised
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