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AA reminds us of the dangers of distracted driving

22.04.2016

I was recently invited by the South African Automobile Association (AA) to attend a driving simulator event that would drive home (pardon the pun) the fact that distracted driving is a mortally dangerous activity.

What is distracted driving?

We have covered the topic in this section of our supplement before however I feel it necessary to address the problem again. Distracted driving encompasses a broad field of activities that us humans engage in, while driving, other than what we should be doing which is, well, driving. These include texting, speaking on the phone, eating, drinking, fixing our appearance, focusing on our passengers and using in-car technologies like the SatNav or infotainment system.

What did the simulator do?

We had an opportunity to test two types of simulators. First was a basic simulator, the type that many a car enthusiast uses with their PC/gaming console, racing with a basic seat, steering wheel and pedals; this gave us an idea of what a simulated drive is like. We then moved on to a more advanced unit…a Simxperience unit, which provides realistic driving physics, complete with accelerative, lateral g-force, braking and gearshift sensations with three 46-inch monitors and a racing seat.

We had a chance to drive a racing car on the simulator for a few laps, which was quite exhilarating. Then, we were told to take our phones out to try and set the same lap times, while responding to a text from an AA representative, at the same time, taking a water bottle from someone, or even while having a conversation.

The results... well I struggled, my lap time was 30 seconds slower. I also found that I lost control over the car, having the phone in my left hand or looking away from the road, it felt like driving was an afterthought. It also took me a while to concentrate on the simulator again, which is what happens in the real world, too. We take anywhere from 30 to 60 seconds to regain our focus on the road after texting or being distracted from driving in some way.

Was it a reflection of real conditions?

I will admit, I don’t envision myself, or most people for that matter using a Chevrolet Cruze touring car on a racetrack, while texting and driving, nor would people be driving that fast on the road. However, the principles remain the same. The idea of texting and driving sounds harmless, but consider the fact that opening a message, reading it, sending even a one-word response and putting the phone down takes a minimum of 10 seconds. That means at 100km/h, you’re covering 26.82 metres per second, which means in those 10 seconds you’re looking away you’ve almost covered the length of three rugby fields, without looking at the road!

Verdict

I have said this on a few occasions before… when driving, we should be focused on that activity and that activity only. The fact that so many people are still guilty of distracted driving either shows a lack of education or ignorance. When you send that quick text message while driving, eat on-the-go, fix your hair or whatever it might be, you are endangering not only your life, but the lives of your passengers and fellow road users, too. On an average day, while driving, how many people do you see using their cell phones while driving? Share your stories with us.

Article written by Sean Nurse
22.04.2016
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