We begin with a new experiment
Today we are going a try out a new way to get around in our city. To make it more exciting we are going to close our eyes when traveling at 40 Km/h, and will keep them closed for three seconds; and we will repeat this behaviour every 5 minutes.
What this is actually about is driving as if we were blind for 33 meters (3 seconds), which is the same distance that is equivalent to 9 parked cars.
How many things can happen during that time on an urban road? A pedestrian crosses improperly, a child comes out to the street after a ball, a vehicle travels out into an intersection, a light turns red, etc.
Anyone up for the risk? We will leave town and repeat it on a road at 100 km/h this time. At that point, the distance travelled blindly will be the equivalent of a football field.
Of course not! We would never take the risk of this experiment and much less with our family in the car. We are not irresponsible…
However, this is what we usually do while driving, we allow small distractions that alone explain most rear-end collisions, veering out of lanes and run over accidents.
Here’s what the statistics say
If we use the DGT (Department of Traffic) figures, 4 out of 10 accidents explain the cause of the tragedies: distractions appear as a concurrent factor in 38% of accidents with victims. On the inter-city roads, distractions occur as a factor in 44% of cases and on urban roads 33%.
In 2013, according to official sources (health/DGT [Department of Traffic]), 638 people would have saved their lives if their driver had not been distracted, 7,413 people would have been spared from a serious accident and almost 200,000 would have avoided a minor injury.
Every day 402 drivers are fined (200 € + loss of 3 points) due to being startled while talking on the phone (14,6781 in 2013).
And why is our attention so necessary in driving?
Driving is a complex task that requires the driver to make 12 decisions for each km travelled. Traffic is too dynamic and changing; if we delay the response time to a possible risk the probability of accident increases exponentially. It’s important to remember that the majority of accidents occur while performing manoeuvres that are of very low driving difficulty.
Normally the driver stops perceiving 5% of traffic information, however, talking for a minute and a half on a mobile phone, even while using Bluetooth, the driver fails to perceive 40% of signs, which would be the same as driving with one eye closed, or with a BAC that is higher than allowed, we would also increase our probability of an accident by four times.
What are our main distractions at the wheel?
The 10 behaviours perceived as the highest risk
(Source: Tráfico y Seguridad Vial magazine no. 221. DGT [Department of Traffic])
Sending an SMS
Chatting on mobile phone
Using mobile apps
Talking on the phone
Tidying up/applying makeup
Looking for something in the glove box
Looking at an accident
Looking at billboard advertisements
We won’t even talk about the subject of selfies and WhatsApp because the recklessness is such that its qualification would not be appropriate in this publication…
Has this ever happened to us?
A passenger has yelled at us for something we’ve done while driving.
We braked suddenly because we saw too late that the vehicle ahead was slowing down.
We do not remember the route we took to reach our destination.
We have veered off or changed lanes unconsciously.
We accidentally ran a traffic light or stop sign.
We have read the paper or tried to write something while driving.
We have grabbed some items from the glove compartment, the floor of the car or another seat.
We have cleaned the inside of the windshield while driving.
We have eaten, drank or smoked while driving.
We have talked on the phone or tried to tune in to a radio station, or used the GPS with the vehicle in motion.
We tried to get an insect out of the vehicle without stopping our vehicle.
We have driven with a loose animal in our vehicle.
We have had a heated discussion with the car in motion.
If we have answered affirmatively to any of these questions, we need to know that we are very lucky to be reading this article today, and above all of not having deprived someone else of it.
BE RESPONSIBLE, DRIVE CAREFULLY!
Francisco Paz. Pons Seguridad Vial Project Manager