4 Vital Tips For Avoiding Driver Distraction
It is a terrifying fact that driver distraction plays a part in an estimated 20-30% of all road collisions in this country: This means that driver distraction could be a contributing factor in over 1,400 fatal and injury collisions annually.
The two biggest distractions for drivers in Ireland are mobile phones, and children. But did you know that child distraction could be the more lethal one? According to researchers at Monash University in Australia children are 12 times more distracting to a driver than talking on a mobile. The most common causes include the driver turning to look back at the child, or keeping an eye on the back seat in the rear-view mirror; engaging in conversation with the child, leaning into the back to help or pacify the child; and even playing with the child.
So how can you minimise these risks to ensure that your family, and other drivers, arrive safely at your destination? We’ve prepared 4 key tips in association with the Road Safety Authority, to help ensure that you stay safe on the road.
Preparation before setting out on a journey, isn’t just about making sure you remember everything. It is also important that you, and your family, are truly ready for the journey; so give serious thought to your child’s needs before you all jump in the car:
Has everyone gone to the bathroom? If in doubt, go again.
Make sure they’ve had a drink, and have a sippy cup available.
Ensure everyone has eaten.
Bring music, audio books, or toys, to keep them entertained or send them off to sleep on longer journeys. If possible, attach toys to the back of the seat in front with a string; so they can be easily retrieved by your child if dropped.
Make sure your phone is on silent, and out of reach. And if you’re using sat nav, check that the route is fully programmed, and the device is properly attached in a safe place.
2. Secure Your Children Properly
Before every journey, no matter how long or short, make sure their seat is properly fitted; and their seatbelt is comfortable, and fastened correctly:
Make sure the seat’s harness or seatbelt is correctly adjusted for your child.
The harness or seatbelt should be quite tight; so that only two fingers can fit between your child’s breastbone and the harness, but your fingers should be unable to rotate in that position.
Clothing can affect how snugly the harness fits, so you should use blankets over the top of the harness; instead of bulky jackets in the winter. This makes sure that the harness is making contact with your child’s body and you should check this before every journey.
If you are using a booster seat or cushion, the adult seatbelt restrains both the child and the seat or cushion. Where the seat has routing guides, these should be used according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
Never tuck the seatbelt under the child’s arm or behind their back.
Some children go through a phase of slipping out of the harness or releasing the buckle. Making sure that the harness is adjusted correctly and that your child is comfortable before departing, can help prevent this.
When buying a new car seat, make sure it is suitable for both your child, and your model of car. Get it fitted properly by the manufacturers, and learn how to do it properly yourself. You can also make use of the RSA Check It Fits car seat checking service for peace of mind.
3. Stay focused
When it comes to driving with children in the car, many parents are resigned to the distraction children cause, and are sceptical of finding a permanent solution. That’s why we need to educate parents about the risks of focusing on their children rather than the road.
If your child/children do start acting up once the car is in motion, keep your attention on the road. If you feel you absolutely have to intervene, find a safe place to pull over in order to do so, but under no circumstances should you ever pull-over on to the hard shoulder of a motorway. Otherwise stay focused on the driving.
4. Everything else can wait.
You spend every waking moment working hard to protect your children; so don’t jeopardise this because you didn’t make in-car safety a priority. It only takes a split second for something to go wrong; so don’t let entertaining your child, or the fear of ‘ignoring’, get in the way of their ultimate safety. If there is something you need to turn your attention to; find a safe place to stop first.
So remember, if you want to be a good parent in the car, focus on being a good driver.