Time To Stop Being Distracted When Driving
In the UK, it is mandatory to sit (and pass) a Driving Theory Test before taking the practical exam. The current test is comprised of two sections. The first is a multiple choice based on road safety and regulation knowledge. The second part is a Hazard Perception test. This is a computer driving simulation comprising a series of scenarios where you have to observe and identify potential road hazards.
The simulation has the examinee observe a screen where they are ‘virtually’ driven along photo-realistic CGI country roads, built up areas and motorways. They are tested upon their recognition and reaction to any developing hazards. This could be a number of situations from an articulated lorry pulling out of a junction or a vehicle beginning a turn in the road. Once spotted, the examinee will click a mouse or a button on the keyboard. They are assessed on whether they spotted the hazard and how long it took them to react to it – the sooner they do the higher they score.
The test was introduced in 2002 but despite that, poor hazard perception can still account for a number of road accidents and fatalities. According to the Department For Transport in the UK in 2015 there were 1732 road fatalities, 22137 people seriously injured and 162,340 slightly injured. That’s an average of 5 fatalities and 61 serious injuries on our roads everyday. Although not the greatest affected age group, children pedestrian or passengers made up 3% of all fatalities with 54 fatal occurrences and 1910 seriously injured.
With greater levels of traffic than ever on the UK’s roads (vehicle traffic levels increased by 1.6 per cent between 2014 and 2015) drivers need to pay attention more than ever. As a result, there has been a correlated increased amount of younger drivers on the roads too – also cause for concern. Although there are hazards on the road that may be easy to identify, there are often situations where they are not immediately obvious. It can take experience to recognise these situations. So despite taking the test – younger drivers may not notice them in enough time. Research has shown that younger drivers show less attention, awareness, hazard recognition and avoidance, and are less able to judge appropriate speed for circumstances.
So younger drivers need to concentrate on the road more so than experienced drivers. Despite this, research in the UK has also shown that younger drivers are more likely however to use mobile phones while driving To give an idea of the impact of any age of driver using mobile phones at the wheel, the Department of Transport figures show that motorists using mobiles were involved in 3,611 crashes between 2009 and 2014 – an average of 722 per year. The stakes are raised even higher when considering that an estimated 22% of those crashes could be caused by driver distraction. Drivers who perform a secondary task such as interacting with a mobile phone at the wheel are two to three times more likely to crash.
Although road safety in general is still improving. The Department of Transport still recognise a core of drivers who continue to demonstrate poor or reckless driving behaviours Answering a call on a mobile or answering a text when driving may be irresistible to some despite it being illegal. To bring awareness to this issue Motors.co.uk have recently launched a campaign highlighting how number of injuries and fatalities on our roads could be cut down by not using a handheld device while driving.
Alongside a petition to the UK government to produce a national safety campaign to raise awareness of the dangers of mobile use while driving, Motors.co.uk have also created a related simulation. Very much like the official Hazard Perception Test, their Time To Stop challenge simulates potential driving hazards for users to notice and react to. Users are encouraged to take the test and then spread the message through sharing the experience with friends and family. So, whether you drive a brand new or a used car, a powerful BMW or small Smart car – you need to be mindful that road distractions can be fatal. You can take the test here.
- Gov.UK Department For Transport, Reported road casualties in Great Britain: main results June 2016.
- Brake.Org, Young Drivers: The Hard Facts, Oct 2014