Concentrate, concentrate

“Keep your mind on the road, your hands on the wheel and your snoopy eyes on the road ahead”. Words from a 1959 hit-song on both sides of the Atlantic, Huggin’ and a kissin’ with Fred. But nearly half a century later its driving advice still works just as well.

Recently compiled data by RoSPA (The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents) shows that 95% of collisions on the road are nothing to do with road design, the weather or vehicle failure. It’s down to human error. Further research by SmartData Systems, a company that specialises in video-based risk management analysis of HGV drivers, shows that almost all collisions involve some element of driver distraction.

There are lots of ways for a driver to be distracted. Imagine yourself behind the wheel; it’s hard for your mind not to wander at some point on a journey – that’s a cognitive distraction. If there’s been an accident on the other side of the road it’s equally hard not to look – that’s a visual distraction. Decide to change channels on the radio – that’s a manual distraction.

But when it comes to training drivers on how to avoid distractions, things become a little more murky. The problem is that the evidence from SmartData only shows that harsh braking or a sudden manoeuvre occurred. Whilst the evidence suggests it might be the result of driver distraction, it’s very hard to work out whether it definitely was.

So what’s the answer? Well drivers and their employers both have a part to play. For employers, the advice is not to over schedule. Drivers with too much to do and not enough time to do it, are likely to take risks and ignore speed limits.

As for drivers, the best advice is to be aware of distractive behaviours and try to reduce/eliminate them. Easy fixes include avoiding eating and drinking whilst driving. Don’t adjust in-cab devices such as radios and sat-navs. And, of course, no handheld mobile phone use, whilst keeping hands-free to an absolute minimum.