You may not know the name Marina Usaceva, but the Johal family certainly do – her driving actions took the life of their son.
Sukhdeep Singh Johal died after Usaceva smashed her Jaguar into the back of his car in 2013. Police enquiries revealed she had used not one, but two mobile phones, shortly before the fatal accident. The 31-year-old was jailed for six years following the carnage, and the court heard this was the third time she had been caught using her phone behind the wheel.
Driving is a difficult enough skill, without throwing further handicaps and curveballs into the mix. The daily interaction between millions of motorists and millions of tonnes of metal travelling at high speeds is a dangerous and dynamic one, and the driver should retain full focus – or face disaster. Manufacturers and dealers such as Jennings Motor Group sell many cars fitted with systems to lessen driver distraction, but nothing can increase a motorist’s concentration skills.
Here are five of the most common and dangerous distractions that a driver can face:
Attending to children
It seems hard to believe, but Australian researchers AAA found that children are 12 times more distracting than driving whilst talking on a mobile phone, with parents looking away for more than three minutes of a 16 minute car ride.
The classic image that springs to mind is the mum at her wit’s end, youngsters screeching and kicking each other on the back seat. But there’s also the concerned parent keeping an eye on the poorly child on the back seat, or the dad turning to ask his son which drive-through restaurant they should visit. Any of these circumstances could see you take your eyes away from the road for seconds, which could prove costly, so the key response is to pull over, if possible.
- Watching the roadside
The writer of this article once failed a driving test because he saw his dad walking along the side of the road, and missed the turning that the inspector had indicated. It’s a ridiculous and quite humorous story in hindsight, but the distractions of seeing someone you know, an interesting poster, an intriguing new shop opening or just a good-looking pedestrian should not be underestimated.
The US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration believes that even a two second distraction “significantly increases individual crash risk”. And one of the main ironies is that crashes themselves can be a distraction – how many times have you rubbernecked to stare at the aftermath of a crash, ignoring the road ahead?
Scarily, nearly 41% of drivers have admitted falling asleep at the wheel at one time or another. According to charity Brake one in five deaths on trunk roads are the result if tiredness, and are often high speed accidents as a result of no brakes being applied before impact. Pull over, and take a nap if necessary.
- Onboard electronics
Manufacturers are trying to reduce the need to reach across to CD players, sat-nav systems, ipods and other gizmos by incorporating controls into steering wheels. In the case of DVD players many will not work in front of the driver if the car is being operated. Sadly, motorists are sometimes too easily distracted by small pieces of technology to concentrate on the large piece of technology in which they are sitting.
- Mobile phone/texting
A report released in 2014 by the National Safety Council and reported by the Daily Mail found that mobile phone use is a contributing factor in more than one in four accidents – and the figure is rising.
Despite regular awareness campaigns and tougher laws to punish driving while using the phone, it appears some drivers have not got the message. One of them was Marina Usaceva, and a life was lost as a result.