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Driver distraction and road safety

By James Billings
Practice Leader, Motor Risk Solutions

Driver distraction is a key contributory factor in ‘Hit Third Party in Rear’ road traffic incidents.

We all deal with hundreds of distractions every day, from checking our social media, replying to emails, and dealing with telephone calls.

When we talk about ‘driver distraction’, we’re meaning paying attention to other things or activities whilst driving – from choosing music tracks to rubbernecking at the incident on the other side of the motorway.

Did you know that the effect of talking on a phone while driving has been shown to be worse than drinking alcohol? That’s because driver reaction times are 30% slower while using a handsfree phone than driving with a blood alcohol level of 80mg alcohol per 100ml blood (the current UK limit), and nearly 50% slower than driving under normal conditions.

Deterioration in driving performance

Many drivers hugely underestimate the risks involved in dividing their attention, believing that they’re still in full control of the vehicle. But research has shown that 98% of people aren’t able to divide their attention without undergoing a significant deterioration in driving performance.

Objects, events or activities both inside and outside the vehicle can cause a distraction. And when a distraction occurs it often results in a lower standard of driving, slower reaction times, poor speed control and poor decision making.

There are four types of driver distraction:

Visual – where the driver sees objects or events which impairs observation of the road environment, such as sat nav or external distractions.

Biomechanical (manual) – where the driver is doing something physical, not related to driving. This can include reaching, leaning, eating, drinking, using vehicle controls, etc.  

Auditory – when sounds prevent the driver from making best use of their hearing, such as loud music, external sounds, talking, or even using earphones whilst driving.

Cognitive – when the driver is thinking about something not related to the primary task of driving the vehicle. This can include using the mobile phone or thinking back over recent meetings or emotional events. This lack of cognitive engagement means that drivers spend less time checking mirrors or looking for hazards.

Managing driver distractions

Around 95% of crashes are down to driver error.

Businesses can raise awareness of driver distractions through education and training, whether on induction training or existing driver training programs such as Driver CPC.

Managers can also make sure that drivers understand the company mobile phone policy and that they should only make/receive calls when it’s safe and legal to speak.

And it’s important that drivers are mindful of making sensible and careful use of in-vehicle technology, particularly where businesses operate several different systems alongside one another, such as telematics, cameras, hands-free mobile phones, hand-held terminals, etc.

You may find our Driver distractions factsheet useful.

Risk management services for QBE customers

QBE helps businesses build resilience through risk management and insurance.

QBE customers can access self-assessment questionnaires and a library of risk management material, along with a panel of approved partners who offer training, e-learning and other services at specially reduced rates. You can find more information in our Motor risk management service offerings brochure, and find out more about how QBE helps businesses to manage risk here.

Need to claim? Report it early

Finally, a reminder that if you have an incident and need to make an insurance claim, it’s important that you report it as soon as possible, ideally the same day. Reporting a claim early can save time and help you to receive any claim payments faster, as well as allowing us to help mitigate the cost of third-party claims.


Your contact

Your contact

James Billings

James Billings

Practice Leader