Back seat banditry could be the biggest distraction on the road, according to new research from Allianz Insurance detailing the top five driver distractions.
A lot of attention is given to phone use but Australian drivers nominate children as the biggest distraction.
The results from the study back up the previous research done by the Monash University Accident Research Centre (MUARC). The university’s investigation found that during an average 16-minute trip, parents took their eyes off the road for three minutes and 22 seconds.
Children were found to be 12 times more distracting than talking on a mobile phone behind the wheel. And the biggest instance of distraction was the driver looking in the rear-view mirror or turning around to check on the child.
At the time Monash University Professor Judith Charlton said: “The costs of distracted driving are undeniable. One major and previously unrecognised distraction is kids in the back seat.”
This highlights the need to reduce driver distraction and Allianz motoring expert, Leanne Hendry, says planning is the key to getting to your destination safely.
“With Easter break and Anzac Day occurring back-to-back this year, this gives us the ability to take a longer period off work. So the longer the road trip, the more entertainment you’ll need for the kids to keep those distractions at bay,” says Hendry.
“To kill time while keeping the kids engaged, try playing games like I Spy and 20 Questions. You can also pack travel bags ahead of time that include things that will keep them busy, such as small toys, colouring books, or the iPad and headphones with their favourite movies, books, and TV shows all set to go.”
The survey also revealed that the second biggest driver distraction was flying objects such as planes or bugs. This was followed by other passengers, mobile phones and pets.
Hendry highlighted the importance of taking your hands off your mobile phone and provided some helpful tips to avoid the constant need to check your phone.
“If you have a road trip partner, let them take the lead on picking music or navigating the GPS so you can keep your eyes on what’s ahead of you,” she says.
But if that isn’t enough, remember that if you are caught using your mobile phone big fines and the loss of demerit points await. In NSW over the holiday double demerit period you’ll be hit with a $337 fine and a loss of 10 points from your licence.
Victoria drivers will be stung with a $484 fine and the loss of four demerit points. In Queensland drivers are fined $391 and forfeit three points.
Having an unsecured pet can also hit your hip pocket. You can face fines of more than $5000 and up to six months in jail under the prevention of cruelty to animals provision if your pet is injured or hurts someone else in an accident. The RSPCA says more than 5000 animals are killed in crashes in Australia each year.
In the case of an accident an unsecured pet can become a wrecking ball. In a 40km/h crash, an airborne pet can develop impact forces up to 40 times its weight — not only is your pet’s life put at risk but so is yours.