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Driver Distractions They Can't Ban

When the traffic safety boffins talk about driver distraction, they’re usually talking about the perils of texting while driving.  And they’re pretty much right.  I guess we’ve all seen people having near misses because they’ve had their eyes on the phone rather than on the road.  Saw one on a main road the other day just about crossing the centre line and frantically correcting before having a close encounter with an oncoming car.


However, I had done something similar a few days previously.  Not because I was trying to text and drive, though. I got distracted (and nearly crossed the centre line, etc.) thanks to suddenly spotting a spider that looked like one of the nasty ones crawling around on the sweatshirt sitting on top of the centre console beside me and I was trying to squash it. Now, they may be able to outlaw texting while driving but that’s one thing that they can’t outlaw easily (“Excuse me, madam; we’ve just got to check your car for deadly spiders.”)

It also got me thinking about other things that can distract drivers but can’t be cracked down on in the same way that using phones and texting can.  I mean, anything can pull a driver’s attention away at a crucial moment.  Here are my top five driver distractors (that don’t include things you choose to do like check makeup or eat):

  1. Children in the car.  Some children just do not grasp the idea that even though Mummy is sitting down and looking relaxed when she is driving, she cannot look at the lovely picture you drew, open your drink bottle or put your shoe back on.  Babies are the worst offenders because they don’t understand and can start to scream, especially if Mummy is nowhere to be seen.  The safety experts who say that children nine months old (the age where they go through major separation anxiety) should be in the back seat facing backwards need a reality check – a distressed child makes for a stressed driver.
  2. Sound systems.  Steering wheel-mounted audio controls for advancing, repeating and adjusting the volume are all very well. However, fine-tuning the balance between bass, treble, left and right and so forth is a bit more fiddly.  Changing CD doubly so.
  3. Advertisements.  They say it’s more of a guy thing, but those ads showing bikini babes that are designed to catch the attention are put beside the road where people driving will see them.  Tell me, guys, which would you rather look at? The road in front of you or a seriously photoshopped woman without a lot of clothing?  Bit of a no-brainer in more ways than one.
  4. Anything that insists on giving you instructions while you’re negotiating tricky traffic. This can include a navigation system or a passenger with a map. At least you can tell the passenger to shut up while keeping your hands on the wheel.
  5. Any type of animal in the car, especially the smaller ones that have more than four legs and bite, such as wasps, spiders, bees and mosquitos.  They might be able to come in the window but can they find their way out again?

They have come up with devices in some new safety conscious cars (such as the new Volvos  that shut down the radio and the phone when the car detects that you’re driving a bit more hectically and possibly need the distractions to a minimum. If only they could do something about the Top Five as well – although a good set of lungs can deal with #1: “SHUT UP!  It’s busy here and I can’t pay attention right now, OK???!!”


  1. John Sinclair says:

    Well said. I was thinking about all this today when I was distracted by a billboard on he M3 telling me not to be distracted.

    July 26th, 2013 at 3:47 pm

  2. Sue says:

    Why don’t they ban completely smoking when driving?

    It must be distracting to get one out & light it.
    It uses one of your hands (or most of 1 hand) to hold it.
    If you drop a cigarette it is an immediate distraction to find it + you may get burnt.
    If you throw a butt out the window, you can start a fire or as happened with my vehicle many years ago, land on the roof of a parked vehicle or one following behind & leave a scorch mark in the paintwork!
    Needless to say, smoking is expensive, bad for your health & unpleasant for non-smoking passengers.

    Surely it has to be as big of a distraction as using a phone. At least if you drop a phone it does not burn you.

    July 26th, 2013 at 6:46 pm

  3. Errol says:

    The visual pollution on our roads is invented/created by government to aid in revenue raising because with the stupid signage about with messages about everything we don’t need to know while we are driving, it is easy to miss the ‘important’ speed signs which blend into the pollution around them. It is these ‘black spots’ that have a range of revenue raising machines in operation. The ‘black’ means that the revenue keeps the government in the black. It has nothing at all to do with safety and the government, through the police, can never prove otherwise. It is fairly typical of government departments in that they ‘say’ what they like and we must believe or otherwise we are ostracised because we can deduce the facts in spite of their nonsense.

    July 26th, 2013 at 8:19 pm