All this week and through the weekend, officers from the Guardia Civil traffic department, supported by colleagues in both the National and Local police, will be carrying out increased surveillance on the roads to try to combat one of the three main contributing factors in road traffic incidents – distractions.
Along with alcohol and speed, distractions form the third most likely contributing factor in road traffic collisions.
Using a mobile phone whilst driving quadruples the risk of being involved in an incident, largely due to the loss of ability to maintain a constant speed and safe distance from the vehicle in front, reducing the reaction time. The greatest number of distraction based incidents result in the vehicle colliding with something in front.
In addition to mobile phones, other factors also cause distractions. Everyday tasks such as lighting a cigarette, tuning the radio, changing a CD, children and even talking can all result in a loss of attention. In fact, recent studies show that smoking whilst driving increases the risk of an incident by 1.5 times, as an example.
Tiredness can also lead to distraction and loss of concentration, so ensuring plenty of rest before a drive is crucial.
In addition, other advice to avoid being a victim of distraction related incidents include not smoking or eating, maintaining a comfortable temperature in the vehicle, taking frequent rests breaks on long journeys, not using your mobile for calls, texts or browsing the internet.
Some music and entertainment systems have controls on the steering wheel, the advice with these is to be fully aware of what all the controls do and ensure you have the confidence to use them with the minimum of distraction, otherwise, just like on traditional radios and music players, the best advice is to program them before the journey.
Similarly, GPS and navigation systems should be programmed beforehand too. Although the use of navigational aids is perfectly legal in Spain, it is illegal to touch the screen whilst driving.
It is considered a serious offence to use a mobile phone, browser or other communication device whilst driving, punishable with a 200 euro fine and the loss of 3 points. The reason being that the stakes are much higher when you consider the number of deaths and serious injuries caused each year by distracted drivers, so the best advice is to focus on driving, and leave communication until you are stopped safely.