And it’s more than just using your phone.

Even though the Anti-Distracted Driving Act went into effect more than two years ago with offenders facing fines of up to P20,000, distracted driving still remains a serious problem among drivers in the Philippines. And with the constant traffic we are faced with each day, it’s easy to blank out or do something else while stuck on the roads.

While a good chunk of accidents are caused by mobile devices, they are far from the only cause of distracted driving. Every day, close to 100 percent (crazy, I know) of drivers engage in some type of distracted driving without even realizing it. A big part of the problem is a lack of understanding of what distracted driving is and how it can be avoided.

“The real tragedy is that nearly every accident caused by distracted driving can be avoided and prevented. Through our Driving Skills for Life (DSFL) program, we create awareness among participants on the dangers of distracted driving with our classroom and hands-on training sessions,” shares EJ Francisco, AVP, Communications, Ford Philippines.

Types of distraction

Most types of distracted driving fall into one of three categories:

  1. Mental Distraction. This can be any activity that takes the driver’s mind off the road, from talking with passengers to getting caught lost in their thoughts while listening to their favorite song on the radio.
  • Visual Distraction. This occurs when the driver is looking at anything other than the road in front them. This could include looking at their gadgets, checking on their kids or staring at something that’s happening outside of the vehicle as they drive by.
  • Manual Distraction. This is when the driver takes one or both hands off the wheel for any reason. Examples include putting on makeup, adjusting the GPS or reaching for something.

When it comes to distracted driving, texting usually gets the most attention because it combines all three types of distraction, which makes it particularly dangerous. And while texting while driving can more than double the chance of being in an accident, it’s not even the most common or dangerous form of distracted driving.

Even if you are vigilant and never use your cellphone while driving, you’re probably still guilty of distracted driving, whether you know it or not. There are several everyday actions you do while driving that they probably didn’t realize were distractions. Admit it, we’ve all done it at one point.

Daydreaming. Believe it or not, but daydreaming is actually the most common form of distraction, and also one of the most dangerous. In the U.S., a study found that of all the crashes attributed to distracted driving, 62 percent were caused by daydreaming—five times more than those was caused by talking or texting on a cell phone.

Eating or drinking. When someone eats or drinks while they are driving, they are combining all of the different types of distraction in one activity and increasing their chances of being in an accident by up to 80 percent. With the added chance of spilling a hot drink of themselves while driving, it is just not worth the risk.

Being angry or sad. Getting behind the wheel of a car in an emotionally agitated state can increase the chance of being in an accident by nearly 10 times. In places like Manila, where the tyranny of traffic combines with the hot and humid weather, it’s easy to see how emotions could suddenly flare under the right circumstances. 

Preventing distracted driving through technology, education

Bianca Gonzales-Intal behind the wheel during a hands-on driving simulation

Even if distracted driving is more prevalent than people realize, that doesn’t mean it’s an unsolvable problem. Distracted driving can be countered with awareness and education.  Fortunately, automakers like Ford Motor Company are on the front lines of trying to combat this growing problem.

In addition to creating innovative safety technologies like the voice activated Sync 3 infotainment system which allows drivers to make calls and send texts hands-free, Ford is going to the root of the problem by educating drivers on the harm that distracted driving can do with the DSFL training program.

“Our courses on distracted driving in the DSFL have taught drivers to be more aware of the possible distractions they face while driving and equipped them with the skills to avoid such distractions, creating safer roads and drivers in the Philippines,” adds Francisco.

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