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Changing CD or drinking coffee is as bad as using a mobile at the wheel

PUBLISHED: 18:14 25 January 2019 | UPDATED: 18:23 25 January 2019

Are you a sandwich scoffer or CD changer while driving your car? As well as earning Steven's wrath, you could be putting yourself in serious danger while behind of the wheel

Are you a sandwich scoffer or CD changer while driving your car? As well as earning Steven's wrath, you could be putting yourself in serious danger while behind of the wheel

Archant

We all know how dangerous it is to use mobiles while driving, but what about other things we do while driving? Steven Downes has a hitlist of driving no-nos

I’ve never hidden my contempt for the arrogant people who use their mobiles while driving.

In fact, considering the number of times I’ve shouted at someone from the street when they’ve driven past with their phone at their ear, I’m lucky not to have been thumped for my trouble.

That contempt will never fade.

But it is by no means the only way that we endanger ourselves and others while driving – just the one that gets the most publicity.

We are all guilty of doing 
things behind the wheel that are easily as perilous as being a phone halfwit.

If you’re a parent, you’ll have to be the definition of perfect not to have been distracted by your children in the car.

My dad could have sent us all plunging down a cliff in the Dolomites when he took his eyes off the winding mountain roads and reached back to stop his sons Graham and Steven fighting over armrest territory.

Despite his best efforts to defuse the conflict, my attempts to annex elbow room ended in a bloody nose.

I’ve had countless situations with my own children: have 
you got your seatbelt on? Stop poking your brother; give it 
back to him now! Wind up the window, please; don’t kick the back of my seat.

Once or twice, I remember a shout of fear from one of the children making me swing back to eyes-front – just in time to grab the wheel and swerve out of the path of oncoming traffic.

I’ve been lucky enough to get away with it, but the story of Laura Hopes is very much a “there, but for the grace of God go I” example to us all.

An inquest this week found Mrs Hopes was probably distracted by her children when she drifted across a Cornish road shortly before a pile-up that killed her and her son.

It’s a terribly sad story, and one that should invite no judgment on Mrs Hopes. “Distracted” and “children” are words that belong together in sentences.

What I find challenging is how we are able to be so – rightly – angry about the use of mobiles behind the wheel, yet so flippant about our own distractions.

Do you do any of the following while driving?

n Drink coffee

n Open and eat a sandwich from a service station

n Redirect your satnav

n Glance at your satnav

n Change a CD

n Change the radio station

n Get a mint out of the glove box

n Have earphones in

n Look at a map (old school)

n Adjust your mirror.

Each of these things creates a break in concentration – a moment in time when disaster can strike. But of course they are not as serious as using a mobile phone – are they?

As someone who can confess to all bar one of above (the exception being the earphones), there’s a persistent voice in my head that is calling me a hypocrite.

How can I shout at the phone halfwits when I behave like a quarter-wit myself?

The thing about drivers, though, is that we all think we are perfect – it’s the others who make mistakes.

If we speed, it’s safe speeding. If we tailgate, it’s because we have the best reactions. If we can’t park, it’s because someone was watching.

If we talk on our phone, we’ll be fine – accidents happen to others.

And if we fiddle with the car radio while doing 80mph on the motorway, it’s not a problem.

Cars are guided missiles, though, and are only safe when they are being guided by someone who is concentrating fully.

Whatever we do that steals our attention away from the controls makes the car lethal, so perhaps it’s time for every one of us to focus.

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