Motoring: Take care on bank holiday roads, says charity

Brake, the road safety charity, and Direct Line are warning drivers that allowing stress or passengers to distract them while driving this bank holiday could have disastrous consequences.

Their calls come in the wake of new research which shows that seven in 10 drivers (71 per cent) have lost concentration at the wheel in the past year because of stress caused by inconsiderate road users, worries about work or tension at home.

It also found that two in five drivers have lost concentration because of distractions from other people in the vehicle.

The survey of 841 drivers revealed that drivers are more likely to lose concentration because of stress caused by other road users’ behaviour, than worries about work or their personal life.

In the past year:

l 60 per cent have driven while not concentrating because they felt stressed, annoyed or upset because of the behaviour of other road users

l 44 per cent of drivers lost concentration because they were thinking about personal issues that made them feel stressed, annoyed or upset

l 39 per cent have driven while not concentrating because of work stress

Bank holiday journeys can be stressful because of the heat, busy roads and a backseat full of bickering kids, so it’s easy for drivers to forget that their number one priority should be focusing on the road and ensuring the family arrives safely.

It only takes a second’s lapse in concentration to cause a death or injury, so Brake and Direct Line are calling on drivers to keep their mind on the road and pull over if they feel overwhelmed and unable to concentrate.

Ellen Booth, Brake senior campaigns officer, said: “Every death and serious injury on the roads is devastating and tears families apart.

“All too often these casualties result from careless errors that could easily be avoided if drivers gave their full attention to the road.

“People live busy, complicated lives, and driving over the bank holiday can be especially stressful, so it’s easy to understand why people get distracted.

“But driving is a massive responsibility because of the harm you can cause, so when you’re behind the wheel you must put safety first and stay focused. If you are so upset or angry that you can’t give driving your full attention, you need to pull over and cool off.”

Andy Goldby, director of motor underwriting at Direct Line, said: “There is no easy solution to prevent being distracted by stress when you’re behind the wheel.

“We advise motorists to plan ahead to try and avoid stressful routes and to take regular breaks if you’re feeling distracted during a car journey, no matter what the cause of the driver’s stress.”

l In 2009, the most recent available data, 1,424 people were killed and 14,272 were seriously injured because of driver or rider errors. These included failing to look properly, overshooting junctions and performing poor turnings or manoeuvres.

l In 2010, 24,300 people were convicted of careless driving in England and Walesdriving and face up to five years in prison.

Under new proposals by the government, likely to be introduced in 2012, it will be easier for the police to prosecute careless drivers who could be given an instant fine of around £100 instead of having to go to court.

Brake is calling for this fixed penalty to be significantly higher, in line with the dangers posed by careless driving, and for traffic policing to be made a national policing priority, to ensure that greater resources are directed into this vital policing area.

Advice for drivers

l Driving is probably the most dangerous thing you do on a daily basis. It is a demanding task that requires your full attention. If your mind is wandering when you are driving or you are too stressed to concentrate, remind yourself of the importance of staying on task and the potential consequences if you don’t. If you aren’t able to focus because you are too upset or angry, find somewhere to pull up safely as soon as possible. Take however long you need to calm down before continuing your journey, calling ahead if you need to.

Before you set off on your travels this bank holiday, make sure that you:

l Read up on the route so that you don’t end up frustrated at being lost or distracted by maps or the sat-nav.

l Plan activities for the journey to keep any kids in the back seat occupied and out of your hair.

l Make sure you get plenty of sleep the night before.

l Plan in rest breaks every two hours to make sure that you stay fresh and able to concentrate on the road.

l Leave enough time to get to your destination so that you don’t have to stress if you get stuck in a jam and you don’t feel pressured to make up time by speeding later on.