Gloucestershire Echo - - NEWS - By CHRIS RUSSON

RECOG­NIS­ING the dan­ger of dis­trac­tions on the road and know­ing how to keep them to a min­i­mum is a vi­tal part of driv­ing safely. Road safety ex­perts at GEM Mo­tor­ing As­sist have now come up with a list of sim­ple tips to help driv­ers stay fo­cused on safe driv­ing.

Safety au­thor San­dra Mac­don­ald-ames has picked through a range of vis­ual, au­di­tory, phys­i­cal and cog­ni­tive dis­trac­tions that can com­pro­mise safety on any road jour­ney – and is now of­fer­ing sim­ple tips for elim­i­nat­ing them.

“As driv­ers we now deal with more dis­trac­tions than ever be­fore,” she said. “There are so many po­ten­tial de­mands on our at­ten­tion, some in­side the car, some on the out­side and oth­ers oc­cur­ring in­side our heads. There is the po­ten­tial for us to al­low any dis­trac­tion to take our minds off the cen­tral task of driv­ing – with po­ten­tially dis­as­trous con­se­quences.”

Where driv­ers di­vide their at­ten­tion be­tween the main task of driv­ing and a sec­ondary, dis­tract­ing task, there is a neg­a­tive ef­fect on driv­ing per­for­mance, ac­cord­ing to San­dra.

Sen­si­ble lane choice can dis­ap­pear, re­ac­tions are slowed, ob­ser­va­tions be­come more fixed, all-round scan­ning stops, driv­ers get too close up be­hind oth­ers and find it hard to keep speeds con­sis­tent.

When driv­ers feel less in con­trol of the en­vi­ron­ment, they are more likely to be­come stressed, and this can lead to tired­ness and/or anger.

GEM road safety of­fi­cer Neil Worth said: “By ef­fec­tively man­ag­ing all the po­ten­tial dis­trac­tions we face as driv­ers, we will be able to an­tic­i­pate haz­ards, be­come smoother and calmer in our driv­ing and stay on the right side of the law. We are also less likely to be in­volved in a col­li­sion or near miss. We just need to en­sure we have the willpower to make it hap­pen!”

Here are GEM’S six tips for ban­ish­ing dis­trac­tions on road jour­neys:

■ Leave the phone alone

Un­less it is an emer­gency, you must not use your phone whilst driv­ing (six points, £200 fine). Con­sider putting it out of reach to re­move the temp­ta­tion. Younger driv­ers call the glove box the phone box.

Switch the phone to silent and turn off the Blue­tooth: this will pre­vent mes­sages com­ing through, but it is still avail­able in an emer­gency.

■ Jour­ney’s end

Plan the jour­ney in ad­vance so that you are aware of your ap­prox­i­mate route. Sat navs are great for the last part of a jour­ney if you have not been there be­fore, so how about us­ing Google Streetview be­fore you go? This will give you a feel for the des­ti­na­tion and where the turn­ings are, so it helps re­duce stress as the route will feel fa­mil­iar. ■ Music pre­sets

Choose your favourites in ad­vance such as on your phone’s playlist, with a stack of CDS - or pre­set your favourite ra­dio sta­tions. This en­sures you don’t need to do any fid­dling on a jour­ney. Keep the vol­ume down to a rea­son­able level to al­low you to have more aware­ness of what’s go­ing on around you.

■ The restau­rant on wheels is closed

Con­sider hav­ing break­fast be­fore you set off for work, not while you’re on the way. For longer trips, plan reg­u­lar drinks breaks. Yes, cars have cup hold­ers but when you’re driv­ing, you take a risk by choos­ing to eat and drink as well.

■ Keep fresh and alert

We tend to look for dis­trac­tions on long jour­neys to ease the bore­dom. Much bet­ter to make reg­u­lar stops of at least 15 min­utes ev­ery two hours or 100 miles. Get some fresh air by walk­ing around, have some coffee or light re­fresh­ments and en­joy a short power nap.

■ Oc­cupy your pas­sen­gers

If you’re trav­el­ling with young chil­dren, make sure there is plenty to keep them oc­cu­pied, as this will help en­sure they don’t dis­tract you. Who wants the ‘are we nearly there yet?’ ques­tion five min­utes af­ter set­ting off? Older chil­dren should be more able to un­der­stand the risks, so you can use them as a sec­ond pair of eyes. This helps teenagers to de­velop haz­ard per­cep­tion skills early.

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