Overconfidence is common in drivers of all kinds, but it can be the cause of complacency which allows you to slip into a false sense of security. When that happens, it becomes more likely to indulge in distractions and bad habits which you know aren’t a good idea, but tend to believe won’t make much difference. However, distractions are dangerous and it takes just a split second of inattention for potentially deadly consequences to follow.
Ask yourself if you ever engage in these 8 dangerous habits – or, instead, ask yourself how often you do it. Then make a conscious decision to avoid them, no matter how convenient they may seem:
It’s one thing to munch on a piece of fruit, quite another to wrangle a hamburger and chips while holding the wheel. It’s something we all do – but also a habit that should be eliminated. That quick glance into your lap might be the very moment at which someone drifts into your lane.
Had a bad day and notice that inconsiderate idiot on your tail? With overconfidence often comes the perception that you’re the expert and everyone else can’t drive. Road rage is an irrational burst of anger that has all too often had tragic consequences. Be aware of yourself and remember, even if someone causes you inconvenience or makes an annoying mistake, forgiving and moving on is a far better response.
- Where’s that phone/handbag/wallet?
Mostly, it is the smartphone that we go looking for at the expense of paying attention to the road, but it could also be the handbag, wallet or other items that distract you. An obviously bad idea; leaning over into the passenger seat or digging in the rear foot wells make it impossible to keep an eye on your surroundings. Rather stop (especially if you intend making a call or sending an SMS) and find your items safely; or instead, put the items that could distract you in the boot of your car, not to tempt you to reach for it.
- Hair, makeup and trimming the beard
The old joke goes, ‘I saw a woman in the traffic putting on makeup and would have hooted, but for my coffee and cigarette’. Funny? Not when performing personal hygiene in the car results in a crash. Do it at home – and the men are as much to blame as the ladies; the electric shaver is a bathroom and not motor accessory.
- Getting changed
Too hot or too cold? If your outfit needs adjusting, you need to stop the car and sort it out. Pulling on or off jerseys and jackets is something many of us have to admit to doing while driving, but it is just not a good idea – particularly if the pullover has to come over your head for removal. It is impossible to properly control the vehicle and see where you’re going if you’re steering and attending to your wardrobe.
The reason a hooter is fitted to every roadworthy vehicle is a big clue for this one: sound is an essential component of safe driving. That’s also why ambulances, police vehicles and fire engines have sirens – so your ears can alert you to danger. Headphones are not for use by drivers – and that goes for cyclists and pedestrians, too. Using your ears means an improved ability to understand and respond to your surroundings.
- Keep your lap clear
Think it is OK to have a small dog or cat on your lap while driving? Think again. Not only is Fido a distraction, but the pet can get in the way of the controls – and that could have devastating consequences. And if having a pet on your lap is a no-no, it should go without saying that a child should never, ever be placed in a car in this position. Children should ALWAYS be in an approved, age-suitable car seat.
- Surfing the net, selfies, SMSing and making calls
We all know that using your phone for anything while driving isn’t a good idea. With the rise of the smartphone, the temptation to do a whole lot more is certainly heightened – but no matter how important that selfie, SMS or quick Facebook check might seem, it affects your primary task of concentrating on the road. Only make calls with a Bluetooth hands-free kit, otherwise this, like the other functions, must wait.
These are all simple, even obvious things to avoid while driving. However, if we are honest, we have all done some or even all of them at one time or another. Be more careful and become a better driver; after all, road safety is everyone’s responsibility.
MiWay is an Authorised Financial Services Provider (Licence no: 33970)
MiWay Insurance Limited (‘MiWay’) is a direct, short-term insurance company, offering customers a range of short-term insurance products including motor, household and homeowners insurance as well as add-on products such as warranty cover and liability cover. MiWay’s shareholder is Santam, a blue-chip JSE-listed company.