Distracted driving has been identified as a major risk factor for road crashes in Jamaica, as more drivers are multi-tasking while operating their motor vehicles. And, according to a study by the Mona GeoInformatics Institute, during the ten-year period 2000 to 2010, more than 63,000 crashes in Jamaica were due to driver related causes.
Distractions may come from passengers in the vehicle, persons on the roadway, or objects and potholes on the road, as well as events taking place, says Duane Ellis, General Manager of the Jamaica Automobile Association (JAA). Other distractions manual or cognitive distractions which include the use of cellular phones, whether texting or making or taking a call and playing of devices, such as DVD players and televisions, or even conversation with a passenger, which can impair the driver’s alertness.
“Our drivers need to understand that the simple act of taking your eyes of the road for more than two seconds, counts as a visual distraction that can lead to a serious crash,” Mr. Ellis pointed out, “Motorists put themselves and other road users at great risk when they do not pay full attention to their driving.”
Nearly nine out of ten crashes in Jamaica are caused by the driver, the recent Mona GeoInformatics Institute’s research revealed. The study of 72,000 crashes indicated that driver distraction was one of the main reasons for incidents.
“Now there are more vehicles on our roads which are equipped with television and DVD players; and these systems can take a driver’s attention off the road,” Mr Ellis explained. He said care also needs to be adopted when using car navigation systems for the same reason.
“Motorists should also be aware that their level of interaction with passengers,” he said. Children can also distract their parent’s attention.
Mr Ellis warned that there was a special danger when approaching accident scenes, or other activities on the road, which may attract the attention of other drivers. He said there are several cases where a minor accident has resulted in a major one, due to ‘gawking.’
“Distracted driving is of major concern, especially when it is combined with other poor driving practices,” the JAA general manager stated. He said that in addition to distractions, other poor driving practices which cause accidents are: recklessness and impairment, which include driving fatigued, intoxication, or driving under the influence of drugs.