Roving eyes of distracted men

Men have a roving eye even while behind the wheel, it appears. In the latest AA survey of Irish motorists we asked drivers about what things distract them. Quite a lot of us are prone to slips in concentration and have had ‘near misses’ or just given ourselves a severe fright because our attention wavered.

Both genders were distracted in almost equal amounts by sights like advertising billboards, Garda checkpoints or traffic accidents. But when it comes to the distraction provided by an attractive member of the opposite sex, men are way out on their own.

Nearly 30 per cent of men said that they had been distracted by the sight of an attractive woman. Just over 2 per cent of women had the same experience the other way around. It is an enormous difference between the genders just on that one point. Its Mars and Venus again and it probably won’t surprise those of us who are human beings.

The more general point of driver distraction is a serious concern for all drivers. Driving requires concentration at all times. In busy urban areas you tend to get lots of distractions together. Pedestrians, cyclists, billboards, tourists and lots of busy activity especially in Summer.

At low speeds drivers can cope with this provided they are paying attention. Although many of us have given ourselves a fright the number of actual collisions is small and serious injuries even smaller.

Just under 15 per cent of the people that the AA surveyed said they had been distracted by an advertising billboard. Not much difference between men and women here but overall men did tend to be slightly more prone to moments of distraction than their female counterparts.

There were still plenty of examples from the ladies of how a loss of concentration can cause a crash. One woman even admitted to rear ending another car as a result of admiring the outfit of another woman.

I guess that it tells you that your attention can wander at any time. None of us are perfect drivers. In my own case I think I am probably prone to lapses in concentration especially when I am on a motorway. The long monotonous kilometers have my neck aching and my mind drifting. I doubt that I would hack it as a long-distance driver.

The trick is to realize this and be careful about it. I’ll almost always pull in and get a coffee at some stage of a journey if I’m driving for more than a couple of hours.

While people may joke about a ‘mini skirt affect’, the onlooker phenomenon or ‘rubbernecking’ can be dangerous and frustrating. We have seen that in AA Roadwatch. On busy roads it is amazing how traffic jams can form.

I recall on Dublin’s M50 a couple of years ago there was a Ferris Wheel set up nearby and drivers, being human, all slowed down to take a look. The ripple effect in the traffic worked its way back along the Motorway and before you knew it was at a standstill three kilometers away, with drivers there baffled as to what on earth was causing it.

And we also have collisions, mostly very minor but sometimes more serious. The message for drivers is that simple accidents happen very quickly, so let’s remind ourselves to concentrate this summer on the roads.

Whether out of concern or morbid curiosity, road traffic accidents also rank very highly in terms of slowing traffic, causing bottlenecks and ironically diminishing concentration spans. 13 per cent of the over 15,000 motorists who took part in the poll said that they have nearly tipped into another car or worse as a result of looking at the scene of a crash. A similar percentage 12 per cent, also said that gawking at another driver being stopped by Gardaí had almost caused them to crash. That hasn’t happened to me yet, but it might.

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