Busy thumbs and wandering eyes costly distractions behind wheel

By Brendan Manning

Driving a car and eating can be hazardous. Photo / Getty Images
Driving a car and eating can be hazardous. Photo / Getty Images

Texting, reading magazines, eating and applying makeup are among the top 10 driver distractions, an AA Insurance survey has found.

Despite being illegal, texting while driving remained the number one distraction - especially for younger drivers and women - according to the Drivers Index survey.

The survey, which polled 1000 Kiwi drivers aged 18 years and over, found while 92 per cent of respondents regarded texting as distracting, nearly two in 10 people still sent text messages while driving.

The ban on texting and using a mobile phone without a hands-free kit came into force in November 2009, yet it was the third consecutive year respondents rated texting as the top driver distraction.

AA Insurance head of customer relations Suzanne Wolton said using a mobile phone while driving could have serious and expensive consequences.

Applying makeup means your eye is not on the road. Photo / Getty Images
Applying makeup means your eye is not on the road. Photo / Getty Images

One recent example was a driver who was texting his wife and let his car drift into a car parked on the side of the road causing several thousand dollars of damage to the parked vehicle and $1900 to his own car.

She said another claim followed a common occurrence - a male driver was watching an attractive woman walk along the footpath and while distracted, ended up hitting the car in front of him - resulting in a claim worth around $2000.

Eating while driving made number seven on the list.

A recent example involved a customer who had dropped food onto his seat.

While looking down to retrieve it, he drove through a red light and collided with a vehicle turning right, resulting in $3500 damage to the other driver's car, plus several thousand dollars worth of damage to his own.

But not all drivers using a mobile phone when a crash occurred would be refused insurance, Ms Wolton said.

"If you're on your mobile phone and you're stopped at traffic lights and you're rear-ended, then generally we would pay." National road policing manager Superintendent Carey Griffiths said driving a car was not something to be taken casually, as for most people it was the most dangerous activity they would ever undertake.

Texting while driving is the top driver distraction. Photo / Getty Images
Texting while driving is the top driver distraction. Photo / Getty Images

Top 10 culprits

1. Texting on a mobile phone
2. Reading a newspaper or magazine
3. Personal grooming
4. Talking on mobile phones without a handsfree kit
5. Changing music
6. Using navigation systems
7. Eating while driving
8. Children in the car
9. Talking on mobile phones with a handsfree kit
10. Looking at billboards / advertising or people outside the vehicle
(Source: AA Insurance)

- APNZ

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