Sat navs, tiredness and other passengers among biggest distractions for Northamptonshire drivers

The M1 safety event saw officers from Highways England join NFRS firefighters and the Safer Roads Alliance
The M1 safety event saw officers from Highways England join NFRS firefighters and the Safer Roads Alliance

Sat navs, in-car technology, daydreaming, tiredness, and talking to other passengers are some of the biggest distractions for Northamptonshire drivers, according to a roadside survey carried out by county fire and rescue services.

Of the drivers the fire service spoke to at Northampton and Watford Gap services, 50 picked their sat-nav or other in-car technology as the biggest culprit for distracting them from the road.

Firefighters from NFRS gave safe driving advice to motorists at the two service stations

Firefighters from NFRS gave safe driving advice to motorists at the two service stations

A further 45 said stress, emotions, tiredness, daydreaming or road rage distracted them when driving, while 41 said talking to passengers caused them problems.

Sara Postlethwaite of the Safer Roads Alliance said: “Talking to people about the issues posed by driver distraction helped many to consider their personal distractions and realise the potential impact they could have.

"We often see reports from road traffic collisions which say ‘for unknown reasons the car left the carriageway’, and whatever those reasons are, they are distractions we want to prevent.”

Other top distractions revealed by the event were drivers looking at passengers/children in the back seat (39 drivers), eating, drinking, doing make-up/hair (35 drivers), and adjusting in-car controls (34 drivers).

Only nine people spoken to admitted being distracted as a result of using a handheld mobile phone when driving, versus the 26 who said using their mobile on hands-free was a distraction.

While the former is illegal, carrying a £200 fine and six penalty points, it remains legal to use a hands-free system to make and receive calls, although it must be fully set up before you drive so calls can be taken without touching the handset. Police can still stop drivers if they believe they have been distracted by using a mobile phone, even if it is completely hands-free.

Ms Postlethwaite said: “Preventing mobile phone use is obviously very important because of the risk it poses, but we also wanted drivers to identify with distractions they might not readily think of as problems, the day-to-day issues which compromise road safety.

“Hopefully the conversations we had with drivers will result in them thinking more about their behaviour and making changes to keep themselves, their families and other road users safer.”

Top driver distractions*

Visual

Sat nav, other in car technology – 50

Points of interest, sightseeing – 26

Looking at passengers (children in back seat) – 39

Looking for items in the car/searching through purse/wallet – 17

Manual

Mobile phone hand held, texting/Snapchat – 9

Eating, drinking, make-up, hair – 35

Smoking cigarettes, vaping – 6

Adjusting in-car controls – 34

Cognitive

Music – 31

Talking to passengers – 41

Mobile phone hands free – 26

Stress/emotions/tiredness/daydreaming/road rage – 45

* As logged by drivers spoken to by NFRS at the southbound Northampton and northbound Watford Gap services on 25 August 2017.