Driver advice: distractions

NewSilentDrivers can Pledge to - never make or take calls, or text, when driving. Turn off their phone or put it out of sight and on silent, and stay focused on the road.

Everyone can Pledge to - never chatting on the phone to someone who's driving, or distracting a driver.

Drive smart

Driving is one of the most complicated and risky tasks many of us do on a regular basis. It requires our full concentration, and both our hands, to drive safely.

If you think you can multi-task at the wheel, you're kidding yourself and putting people in danger. If you use a mobile phone, eat, fiddle with a stereo, do your make up, or do anything else that takes your eyes and mind off the road or your hands off the wheel, you're significantly increasing your chances of being involved in a crash.

Mobile phones

Distractions phoneMore and more people own smart phones, and some find it hard to switch off, even for a minute. But you should never use your phone at the wheel.

Making or taking calls, texting, using the internet or checking social media while driving is incredibly risky. All these things are a bit like drink-driving: they slow your reaction times and hinder your control, and could easily cost you or someone else their life. Research shows if you are on the phone when driving your reactions are 50% slower and your crash risk is four times higher than normal.

This applies to hands-free kits too. Despite it currently being legal in New Zealand to make or take calls using a hands-free kit while driving, research proves it's not a safe option. Hands-free kits are almost as risky as holding the phone to your ear, because it's the distraction of the conversation that's the main danger.

The only way to avoid dangerous distraction from your phone is to switch it off, or to silent, and put it out of sight and reach when you're driving.

On long journeys, stop for breaks every two hours, and check your messages then.

You can also help other drivers to stay safe by refusing to speak to someone on the phone while they're driving. If someone picks up while they're driving, end the call as quickly as you can. It could save their life.


If you use a sat-nav, programme it before starting your journey and never while driving. Fiddling with the sat-nav will take your eyes and mind off the road with potentially lethal consequences.

Remember, it's there to help you keep focused on driving rather than worry about directions, but it's not there to make all the decisions for you. You still need to look at signs, particularly those warning of hazards or speed limits, and watch for people and hazards.

distractions eatingEating at the wheel

Eating and drinking on the move might seem harmless but research shows it impacts on your ability to react quickly. Eating at the wheel often means taking your eyes, hands and mind off the road, and it only takes a small lapse in concentration for a devastating crash to occur. Eating should be a pleasure, so take the time out to savour your meals when you're not driving.

Last updated January 2016

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