How conversations can distract you while you drive

Young male with female passenger, driving, day.

Published 9 April 2021
Last updated 12 April 2021

Safe driving means learning how to manage distractions. In this blog, we show you the dangers of listening to your passengers and give you top tips for staying focused on the road.

Have you ever been so into a conversation that you’ve completely zoned out? You know, your mates call and start gossiping about the fortunes of some minor celebrity or who got off with who at the weekend. Maybe that’s just my life, I do not know.

Anyway, the point I’m making is that you get so absorbed in the chat that the hazard warnings your brain receives from your eyes are ignored.

Ears what can happen

Why are we talking about this? Well, imagine you’re driving and the person in the passenger seat is yammering away in your earhole. You’re really loving the convo and it’s starting to become more important than focusing on the road. You turn to make a particularly important point to your companion and, in that moment, a car pulls out from the junction ahead. Your attention has been so focused on the sound in the car that you have not noticed the warning signs (the other car is indicating and has just made a small move forward) and you do not have much time left to brake.

Here in blog land, we can quite easily say: ‘You spot the car, just in time, and brake before a serious incident occurs.’ Out there in the real world, we cannot decide how this situation plays out by choosing a happy ending. All we can do is stay alert and keep our attention on the road. After all, incidents can develop at any time – there’s no stretch of road where it’s safe to let a distraction affect your driving.

Pipe down!

So, back to our scenario. Just how do we stop this happening and make sure that everybody gets home safe and sound? The truth is, it’s down to the driver to recognise when their concentration is being affected. If you start to find that chatter about the latest social media meme is more interesting than what’s happening on the other side of your windscreen, then politely ask your passenger to pipe down. If they’re finding it difficult to understand why you need a bit of quiet, then stop in a safe place and explain it to them. There’s really no shame in it and it could be the difference between arriving safely or not arriving at all.

Just the tips of the iceberg …

If you’ve found this post useful then you’ll be delighted to know that the Safe Driving for Life website is chock full of loads more great advice and guidance. If that’s not enough, then you can visit our shop and get your hands on all the official DVSA learning materials, including The Official DVSA Theory Test Kit for Car Drivers, The Official DVSA Guide to Driving – the essential skills and The Official DVSA Guide to Better Driving.

Also, check out the Where’s your head? blog post, which tells you all about the science of distraction.

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