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The 8 most common distractions for drivers

[fa icon="calendar"] 11/11/17 5:30 PM / by SAMTRAC


Cover image 11 November 2017.jpg

From an overly-loud radio to texting while driving, the distractions you can face are various in their type and severity. Driver distraction is a much-debated topic, and it is still not well understood. In plain English, this means a driver’s attention on driving is taken away by something or someone. This turns them into a really dangerous driver.


For example, during a cell phone conversation, the driver’s thinking resources, which should be constantly focused on analysing the ever-changing driving scenario, are now being ‘stolen’ from the driver by an interfering cell phone call. The result is a muddled thinking process and a reduced capacity for reacting efficiently.


Distracted driving is not the same as showing a lack of attention

The latter occurs when a driver is paying less attention to the driving task and not because of any particular trigger (e.g. day-dreaming). In distracted driving, the diversion of the driver’s attention is not the same as the driver’s lack of attention, which is caused when driving under the influence of alcohol, or drugs (for instance).


4 types of driver distraction

  • Visual: Taking our attention away from the road to look at something else.
  • Analytical: Our thoughts are focused on what is being discussed in a phone conversation rather than paying attention to the road.
  • Physical: One common example is holding a cell phone in one hand while still trying to control the car with the other.
  • Hearing: For instance, the radio is on so loud you don’t hear an ambulance siren.


Here are the most common distractions for drivers (and some potential counteractions to adopt).


Problem: Talking on cell phones, or texting while driving.

Solution: Mobile phones must be in a cradle fixed to the vehicle, or operated using only Bluetooth or voice activation in order to take calls while driving. However, it would be much better to find a safe place to stop and take a call so that you are not distracted in any way when driving.


Problem: Adjusting the settings on your car radio or air conditioning.

Solution: Turn off the radio or stereo, particularly in new or challenging traffic situations. Only adjust the radio, digital music devices, or load CDs, when stopped if you cannot get help while driving from a front seat passenger.


Problem: Eating while driving.

Solution: If you are on a long-distance trip, rather wait until you are stopped at a rest area to eat.  


Problem: Dressing (e.g. putting on a tie) or changing clothes when driving.

Problem: Applying make-up.

Solution: This solution actually applies to the previous two problems, and relates to poor time management. Plan your time, day and journey better so you aren’t left with finishing your toilette in your vehicle.


Problem: Turning around to engage with passengers in the backseat, especially children

Solution: If your children are old enough to understand, explain to them that you can’t take your eyes from the road, and you will speak to them properly when the car is stopped/parked.


Problem: Setting your GPS while moving

Solution: Only enter text into devices, i.e. your GPS, mobile phone, etc. when you are parked out of the line of traffic.


Problem: Searching for items in various areas of the car while driving

Solution: This is very simple – wait until the car is stopped!






Topics: Driving safety, driver training, Driver safety, Distracted driving



SAMTRAC International is the leading occupational health, safety and environment (HSE) management e-learning training course that provides students with the foundational and fundamental knowledge critical to occupational HSE management.

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