How to avoid distractions behind the wheel

What distractions get us most when we're driving, and how can we avoid them? Here's our guide to staying on your game behind the wheel

Distractions behind the wheel

Distractions behind the wheel are a quick shortcut to a dangerous situation on the road. Avoiding them will dramatically improve your chances of getting where you want to go with you, your passengers and your car in one piece.

We outline the biggest distractions behind the wheel, and how to avoid them.

Distractions can be visual, auditory, physical or cognitive. Are you looking at, listening to or thinking about something that’s taking your attention away from the road? Are you doing something in addition to driving? Doubling any of the above with driving can dramatically reduce your driving performance across the board, from your reaction times and your decision-making, to your overall control of the vehicle.

Distracted behind the wheel

“As drivers we now deal with more distractions than ever before,” says Sandra Macdonald-Ames, road safety author. 

“There are so many potential demands on our attention, some inside the car, some on the outside and others occurring inside our heads. There is the potential for us to allow any distraction to take our minds off the central task of driving – with potentially disastrous consequences.

“But the good news is that we can banish just about any distraction, as long as we want to. This is best achieved through straightforward self-discipline and sensible journey planning.”

Driven to distraction

touchscreen distraction highways england

So what exactly distracts us most, and how do we stop? As above, happily, it’s mostly about self-control, pre-planning and control over your passengers. Here are GEM Motoring Assist’s six tips for nipping those distractions behind the wheel.

Phones away

We barely need to explain this one. Six points and a £200 fine is what he or she who gets caught using a phone behind the wheel will receive. Put the phone on silent, out of reach and out of sight, to avoid the temptation to check it.

Bored in traffic? Still don’t… It’s illegal to use your phone behind the wheel unless you’re stationary, the engine is off and the keys are out of the ignition. Phones are one of the most hotly-debated distraction in motoring right now.

Map it out

Planning your route is a great way of making your journey easier. It means you’re prepared for every step of your journey, instead of getting distracted by every step of your journey. Having it rehearsed in your head means your sat-nav won’t be as much of a distraction, either.

Distractions behind the wheel 

DJ off the decks

Unlike the world’s best DJs, you won’t be criticised for having a prearranged set before you drive. In fact, we recommend it, so that you’re not tempted to faff about finding the song you want to listen to. Keep the volume down and don’t get too into it. We all love a singalong, but don’t let it turn your attention away from the road.

Busy the litter

Travelling with children? They can be the noisiest, liveliest distraction. Make sure they’ve got something to distract them, so they don’t distract you. Older children shouldn’t be too much of a bother. Getting their help with observations should prime them for when they get driving, too.

Distracted behind the wheel

Snack discipline

Your dietitian and your valeter won’t be the only one thanking you for keeping the food consumption out of the car. Holding a snack means you’ve got a hand off the wheel, and your mini meal could be a distraction. Pull over for a bite in a service station if you simply can’t wait. Breaks for food and drink are good practice on long trips, so it’s a win-win.

Wakey-wakey

Of course, all of this is for nothing if you’re in no state to drive yourself. Generally, you should be taking a 15-minute break every two hours. A well-rested, hydrated driver is a better and safer driver. If you’ve followed our advice above and pulled over for a bite, don’t let the mid-afternoon lunch lull get you. Get some fresh air, stretch your legs. A caffeinated beverage might be in order, too.

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Ethan Jupp
I'm Content Editor at MR. Road trips music and movies are my vices. Perennially stuck between French hot hatches and Australian muscle cars.

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