Driver Distraction in the News

This evening’s ‘Tonight with Trevor MacDonald’ deals with driver distraction
and a new press release from Swinton Insurance (copied below with permission)
warns that drivers are becoming confused about what they may and may not do
while driving.

Paul Smith, founder of, said: “Managing distraction is a key
driver skill. Often we talk about ‘concentration’ instead, but of course that’s
the other side of the same coin. Some estimates put driver distraction as a
contributory factor in around three-quarters of all crashes, so clearly driver
distraction is extremely important to road safety.”

“The ‘trick’ that drivers must perform is not to ‘avoid all distractions’, but
to ensure that the road always has sufficient attention. With the attention
demands of the road varying over a wide range, drivers normally do have spare
capacity for other tasks. Many of these other tasks are routine and perfectly
normal like retuning the radio or conversing with a passenger.”

“The message to policy makers is this: Giving drivers long lists of ‘dos’ and
‘don’ts’ simply isn’t productive. Instead we must help drivers to manage
distraction and ensure that they always have sufficient attention for the road
ahead. Since this is ‘skill based’ rather than ‘rules based’ we run the risk of
causing confusion – as shown by the new Swinton survey – and confusion makes
matters worse not better.”

“We should not fall into the trap of trying to determine safety by observing
what drivers are doing with their hands. Being in proper control is much more a
matter of what drivers are doing with their eyes and their mind.”

Notes for editors

Swinton PR:


Complete confusion exists on Britain’s roads as clueless drivers are mystified
over what constitutes legal and illegal behaviour behind the wheel says

Figures revealed by the leading high street insurance retailer highlight
widespread confusion surrounding what constitutes a driving offence on today’s
roads and the broker is calling for a tighter definition of the law to prevent
drivers getting points on their licence or being disqualified.

Over three quarters of drivers think it’s perfectly legal to change a CD, hold
a partner’s hand or light a cigarette when driving whereas nearly two thirds of
people think it’s illegal to apply lipstick when behind the wheel.

The population is split over whether it’s legal to eat a sandwich at the wheel
or not, with 51% of the 2,400 drivers questioned in a YouGov survey
commissioned by Swinton considering this as illegal behaviour.

The truth is that any of these, or other acts including reading a map on your
lap or resting your arms on the steering wheel could be considered illegal in
the eyes of the law if the driver is deemed not to be in full control of the

Swinton’s motor insurance division is concerned that this level of
misunderstanding could result in drivers unwittingly breaking the law – facing
a hefty fine or even disqualification for driving without due care and

The Road Traffic Act 1988 states that, ‘If a person drives a motor vehicle on a
road without due care and attention, or without reasonable consideration for
other persons using the road, he is guilty of an offence.’

Contact: Paul Smith