Sometimes we are not aware that some of the things we do while driving, are actually more dangerous than we think. Ok, using your mobile phone to text or surf Facebook while driving is definitely dangerous as one hand will be off the wheel and your eyes will shift between the road and the phone screen. But answering calls at the wheel is possible – with the use of hands-free devices right?
However, researchers have shown that drivers using hands-free kits are actually at similar safety risk as those holding their mobile phones to their ear. Bottomline is, the driver is still engaged in a call and is distracted to a certain degree, hence not giving fullest attention to the road. Imagine if you were having a quarrel with your partner while driving or receiving some bad news that shocks you.
Eating and drinking in the car is something I am guilty of, especially when I’m rushing between appointments and only have time to eat when I’m moving between places. I really try not to eat in the car if possible, because it can get messy. For example, if you’re a eating a burger, you might drop bread crumbs. If you’re eating rice, some grains might fly. These little bits of food when left in the car unnoticed, may attract pests like cockroaches or even leave a smell. It can get dangerous as you might be busy trying to stop the sauce from dripping down the sides of the burger and not be able to hold the steering wheel properly. As for drinks, the tendency to spill your drink is high and you really do not want hot coffee in your lap.
Also, if you are eating out of a box, the tendency is to leave the box on your lap. If you suddenly have to brake, your braking will be affected somewhat as you try not to spill the contents of your box at the same time. This applies to anything that you put in your lap – it can be your pet, your kid, your Filofax, your meeting documents. Ok, a pet and a kid will be a much larger distraction as they can suddenly jump or block your view.
Very often I see people hanging their right hands out of the window with a cigarette between their fingers. When you smoke in the car, you inevitably take one hand off the steering wheel. Any situation with one hand off the steering wheel will be dangerous. Truth be told, I do drive with one hand on the wheel usually (I need two hands to turn though), but the other hand is simply resting on the lap or on the lower part of the wheel. When you are smoking or holding your girlfriend’s hand, it is being occupied and will slow down your reaction time if you need to get both hands back on the wheel quickly.
Besides taking your hand off the wheel, the other thing that also increases safety risk is when you take your eyes off the road, even for just a few seconds. For example, when you look at your GPS for a few seconds too long while trying to figure out where to go. Yes, GPS is voice-enabled I know, but it may be too late to switch lanes before you realise that you have to make a turn at that point. So before you move off, go through the suggested route to get a rough idea first.
Then sometimes we want to reach out for something while driving – maybe you want to get your ringing phone in your handbag or you want to take something out of the glove box. When reaching out towards the glove box with your left hand, you might end up pulling the steering wheel to the left as well, causing your car to drift out of lane.
What about driving with heels? That can be a threat if the lady is not familiar or not used to driving with heels. It also depends on how high the heels are and what kind of heels they are. Wedges would be fine, but six-inch stilettos might put your ankle in a very awkward position on the pedals. Sometimes the heel might get caught in the grooves of the mat and may cause you to lose footing. Slippers can also get caught under the pedal or fold backwards if you are not careful. I know of people who drive barefoot to be safe.
Slowing down to look at accidents is a form of distraction too. Not only is that distracting, it also causes traffic delays for nothing! I often get annoyed when I suddenly experience congestion on the roads just because drivers are curious to find out what happened to that overturned car. Worse, there are some who slow down so they can take photos of the accident to put on STOMP. Taking photos while driving will need both hands to hold the phone steady and that is super dangerous!
Before you do anything in the car, think about the possible dangers. You can reply the text later – if you need to inform someone that you are late for the meeting, you can do it when you reach a stoplight; you are already late anyway. If you need to eat, do it when you are still parked in the car park. We can get very comfortable with doing a lot of these things in the car as we have been doing them for some time and nothing has ever happened (touch wood), but just be careful – your life is most important!