Australia is a nation of distracted drivers who multitask behind the wheel with everything from holding fur babies in the lap (59%) to being affectionate (64%) and playing photographer (45%) according to a new survey by Australia’s largest independent tyre and underbody repair franchise, JAX Tyres.
This month, thousands of Aussies will hit the road during the Christmas and New Year break, drawing attention to the risks that come when drivers take their eyes off the road and hands off the wheel.
Drivers munching away on food (92%) was the most common distraction witnessed by others on the road, followed closely by drivers on their phones (82%). Unsurprising given the phone is never far from our hands – more than a third (35%) of Australian drivers admit to texting whilst on the move. A further 11 per cent take that risk to another level by engaging in social media (4%) or viewing a video (7%).
Yet phones are not the only distraction. Perfecting make-up (79%) and changing clothes (40%) were other risky acts seen by many motorists, even though 99 per cent of us trumpet our own safe driving ability.
More than a third (38%) of Australian drivers agree they let road rage take over, but a much larger pool (86%) of drivers have seen other motorists yelling abuse at surrounding traffic. More than two thirds (71%) have witnessed parents turning away from the road while driving to discipline their children in the back seat, a risk only 19 percent admit to.
Another quarter (25%) confess to being scared or distracted by insects like mosquitos or spiders in the car mid-navigation. Young women are particularly guilty (33%) of letting creepy crawlies take their mind off the road.
JAX Tyres CEO, Jeff Board urges Australians to be mindful of the secondary distractions when behind the wheel this festive season. “A distraction whilst driving is any activity that takes a driver’s mind off the primary task of driving, even if it’s not illegal.”
When it comes to holiday road trips, only one in five (20%) Australians follow the road safety advice of stopping every two hours on a long drive, with nearly half (44%) of the 1,013 drivers surveyed confessing they drive up to six hours without a break. Of this group, five per cent have driven more than six hours without even stopping for the toilet.
“When Christmas falls, many cars on the road will be driving long distances to meet with family and friends, and while our research indicates some do the right thing and hand over the wheel to another driver, tired and distracted drivers are still conducting risky behaviour,” added Mr Board.
It appears that the majority of drivers on long road trips ignore the signs of being tired with only 11 per cent stopping and reviving for 20 minutes (11%). Of those surveyed, coffee or energy drinks (17%), opening the window (6%) and turning on the radio (4%) were common routines to staying alert on the road. A further 6 per cent of tired drivers admitted to driving until they reached their destination.
“Whether you’re heading to Grandma’s with the kids or driving up the coast of Australia, remember to pull over and take breaks every couple of hours, even if you don’t feel sleepy. Grab a snack, get some fresh air and stretch your legs by walking around,” concluded Mr Board.
Ahead of the busy holiday period, Mr Board recommends his top 10 tips for mindful driving:
- Use your phone for emergency situations only and to avoid temptation simply switch it off
- If you are tired, pull off the road and take at least a 20-minute break
- No matter how many passengers you have in the car, you should limit the level of activity inside
- Snack smart. If possible, eat meals or snacks before or after your trip, not while driving. On the road, avoid messy foods that can be difficult to manage
- Do your multitasking outside the car
- Finish dressing and personal grooming at home
- Secure children and pets before getting underway. If they need your attention, pull off the road safely to care for them. Reaching into the backseat can cause you to lose control of the vehicle
- If you have passengers, enlist their help so you can focus on driving safely
- If another activity demands your attention, instead of trying to attempt it while driving, pull off the road and stop your vehicle in a safe place
- Store loose gear, possessions and other distractions that could roll around in the car, so you do not feel tempted to reach for them on the floor or the seat