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What Are the Biggest Driver Distractions?

Driving requires a high level of concentration to stay safe, be aware of hazards and react accordingly. Yet a lot of drivers become distracted when behind the wheel, whether due to being in a rush on the morning commute and attempting to drink coffee or losing focus and letting their mind wander.
Recently the law changed to clamp down on distracted driving by increasing the penalty to six points and a £200 fine for those using a phone. But there are many other driver distractions that can prove just as dangerous. At HPI we looked into what the top driver distractions and bad habits are.

Common Driver Distractions
We asked drivers a range of questions, such as selecting which actions they had done or seen other drivers doing when driving or sat at traffic lights and what they think are the most dangerous habits.
The top distracted driving activity that those surveyed* admitted to was drinking coffee or hot drinks when behind the wheel, as 31% of respondents said they regularly did this. It was closely followed by 29% of drivers admitting to checking someone else out either in another car or walking by.
Behind this were reaching for something behind their seat (19%), taking off a coat when driving (17%), eating toast or cereal (16%) and topping up makeup (8%). Despite the fact that any driving distraction could result in an accident if drivers miss something, 3% of respondents didn’t think any of the listed activities were dangerous.
Millennials are the Guiltiest of Distracted Driving
Younger generations and millennials across the survey* admitted to being guilty of a lot of distracted driving actions the most. A massive 88% of 18 to 34-year-olds said they drank coffee or a hot drink during their daily commute and 8% brush their teeth (presumably to get rid of coffee breath). A worrying 15% admitting to watching videos on their phone when driving too. This is incredibly dangerous and if caught would result in six points and a £200 fine, meaning those who only passed within the last two years could lose their licence.

For older drivers, 25% of 35 to 44-year-olds admitted to eating breakfast on their daily commute, but so did 27% of those aged 25 to 34 and 24% of 18 to 24-year-olds.
The Most Dangerous Distractions
Understandably results showed drivers thought watching videos on their phone (37%) to be the most dangerous driving distraction by a long way. Following this was reaching behind for something (12%) and drinking a hot drink (11%) even though it was the most common activity drivers admitted to.

Popular Distractions of Other Drivers
When asked about what distracted driving activities respondents had seen other road users doing behind the wheel, drinking a hot drink was top with 58%. Overall the percentage of driving distractions witnessed seemed to be much higher than those that were admitted.
40% of drivers surveyed* said they’d seen others checking themselves out in a mirror and 38% eating breakfast (compared to just 16% who admitted doing such a thing). Interestingly, 48% said they’d seen drivers topping up their makeup but just 8% claimed to do so when behind the wheel.

There were a few other weird and dangerous things that had been spotted by drivers too, such as 22% saying they’d seen someone reading the paper when sat at traffic lights and 15% seeing people writing something down on paper.
Overall Impact
The overall findings from our survey* show that distracted driving covers a broad spectrum, from somewhat innocently sipping from a cup of coffee to blatantly not paying attention and putting on makeup when supposedly in control of a vehicle. Worryingly it’s younger drivers who are the worst offenders and most likely to be more focused on their appearance than the road. Hopefully this study and stricter punishments will discourage distracted driving in the future.
*The survey comprised of 500 motorists