Grooming While Driving, and Other Shenanigans
In the last of our series on Distracted Driving, we explore several other unseemly dangerous antics commonly done on the road.
A Hairy Situation
We get it; sleep is precious - and on any given day, we try our best to do as many things as we can, as time-efficiently as possible. For some of us, grooming sometimes takes a backseat at home, in favour of the front seat of our vehicle.
A survey conducted in Britain found that a shocking half-million of road accidents a year are caused by female drivers applying make up behind the wheel. 3% of them have ended up in car accidents because of it. The survey found that young women aged between 17-21 were more likely to prioritise beauty over safety, and most prone to accidents as a result.
Men are not exempt from being tempted to groom themselves while driving too. Shaving while driving is an equally dangerous attempt at multitasking. Remember that common behaviours aren’t necessarily safe.
RAC spokesman, Simon Williams, says that “driving is a complex and potentially dangerous task which demands our full attention. Anything that compromises our focus at the wheel could have lethal consequences."
Whether it is applying mascara, brushing your hair, or trimming your beard - leave grooming to your bathroom, or when you’re safely parked.
Driving with Your Subconscious
The tricky thing about daydreaming while driving is that on top of it being involuntary, you may still feel aware of your surroundings, but not be in conscious contact with it. A routine drive back home after a long day at work is a field day for the mind to wander off spontaneously. Suddenly snapping back to attention during a long stretch on the highway or arriving at your destination having already forgotten chunks of your journey, are sure signs that your subconscious has taken the wheel.
To curb this, fight habituation by exploring different routes to familiar places. Perry Buffington, a medical columnist, says, "simply put, we get used to things, and when we do, they're no longer important to us."
Constantly be on the lookout for potentially dangerous scenarios while driving to remain mentally alert and present on the road. Chewing gum can help too.
Rubbernecking is colloquially known as ‘kepoh’.
Extremely common in the case of a road accident, this behaviour involves a keen interest and concentration on a vehicular accident, often, even slowing down to sate their curiosity, or get a better look at what happened.
That traffic slows to a crawl as a result is a bad enough consequence, but rubbernecking can also lead to secondary accidents as distracted drivers are a lot likelier to end up in a crash themselves.
While we recognise that it is, admittedly, a natural tendency and almost a sense of entitlement to want to find out what caused the hour-long jam you’ve just sat in, try to be aware that your driving actions could be contributory to the problem too.
Big, Flashing, Wordy Billboards
It’s the biggest absurdity of all the distractions. For all the measures we have implemented to increase road safety - speed traps, breathalyzers, fines for distracted driving - there is a glaringly obvious contradiction to the efforts that have been made to save lives on roads.
That anomaly is roadside billboards.
The advertising industry has one goal - to capture attention. And billboards are only effective when they’re noticed. As a result, they’ve been getting increasingly bigger and brighter in efforts to attain a larger audience. Digital billboards are the newest invention, displaying a new ad every few seconds. And like moths drawn to light, we can’t help ourselves. Humans are hardwired to look at bright, moving or flashing objects. It’s an evolutionary feature that’s designed to protect us from threats.
A study by the University of Alabama showed almost 30% increase of accidents at digital billboard sites, compared to nearby road segments without digital billboards. Teen drivers tend to be more significantly visually distracted than other age groups.
Shut Up and Drive
This is a tricky one, as it is extremely normal to engage in a conversation with your passengers as you travel. We aren’t suggesting you impose a no-talking rule on your next road trip, but if you find yourself paying more attention to your family or friends instead of your surroundings, you are at a high risk of an accident. Even if you steadfastly keep your eyes on the road without looking at the person you’re having a conversation with, the mental and cognitive cost of your interaction does impair your focus on the road, and your distractedness increases with the level of engagement or thought-provoking topics you may be discussing.
Ultimately, with nearly everything proven to come at some degree of a cost to our ability to drive at our most engaged selves, it helps to be aware of potential driving distractions so that we can self-check better. Avoid the big No’s, and be more mindful when consciously using music or conversations to make our drives more enjoyable.
Be safe, everyone!