Strictly defined, a car is a transportation machine you operate to get you from one place to another. However, it has gone beyond that and with the amount of time we spend driving around in our cars, it has become some sort of house of wheels for some of us. We have our meals in the car, change clothes in the car, apply makeup in the car or even catch a quick snooze between meetings. However innocent you think these may be, they are actually dangerous distractions that might cause harm to you and other motorists. What are the five common distractions we should stop doing in the car?
Texting and calling
There are very strict rules on the usage of mobile phones when we are driving, to the extent of not even being able to be seen holding your mobile phone. Sometimes, an urgent text or call comes in and you just have to respond to it. Make sure you use a hands-free kit if you are answering a call and best to get a passenger to read your text for you, otherwise just wait till you are at a stoplight or something. It is dangerous to take one hand off the steering wheel, especially if someone else isn’t paying attention on the road as well, so keep both hands on the wheel!
Eating and drinking
It is not an offence to eat and drink in the car as far as I know, but we really should not be attempting to eat or drink while we are driving. I understand that sometimes you are just so busy rushing from one appointment to another that the only time to eat is in the car as you are making your way between places. Well, you can pull over at a car park if you are really hungry and need to get some food in.
I don’t mean taking photos of the scenery, but taking photos of something STOMP-worthy or Facebook-worthy; for example, an accident or some person on the sidewalk doing something strange. This would usually mean reaching out for your mobile phone, which is illegal, and then it also means diverting your attention to that particular incident and taking your eyes away from what’s ahead. That is a huge no-no! Get a passenger to take the photo for you, otherwise, just forget it – who cares about the number of likes you can potentially get for that pic!
Not me, but I have often seen drivers with one hand hanging out of the car dangling a cigarette. I don’t think there is a law against smoking in the car for Singapore and I guess these drivers hang the hand out so the car won’t smell and the ashes won’t drop into the car. It is dangerous because one hand is not only off the wheel, but part of it is outside of the car engaged in something else. Should anything happen, you may not be able to react in time! Plus, throwing the cigarette butt away when you’re done is considered littering.
It could be your meeting notes, the script for your speech, your to-do list, your Filofax or even an interesting article in a magazine that you might read in the car. In the past I used to hold up the street directory and keep referring to it when I drove, but now that we have GPS it’s a lot easier. Reading in the car can be quite a distraction because you are trying to absorb what you are reading and sometimes certain things you may not understand confuse you momentarily, causing you to lose attention on the road. So do your reading before or after you drive please!
There are many other things that people do in the car I’m sure; some better left unsaid ( 🙂 ). Whatever it is you do in the car, just remember that you are not only putting yourself at risk, but also the other motorists around you! Driving safe doesn’t always sound as exciting as racing around the city, but in the end it’s likely to help you save and keep driving longer.
Cheryl Tay is an established Singaporean motoring journalist who appreciates cars and their technologies, when she’s not jumping up and down during a Grand Prix race. More of her at www.cheryltay.sg or on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram.