OK I’ll fess up. Sometimes I do get distracted by my phone when I’m in the car. It’s all too easy to take a quick glance at the traffic lights and some of us think we can compose complicated messages while we’re driving. You can’t. You just can’t. Whether you throw it in the back seat of your car or do something else to stop it tempting you, it’s certainly worth doing.
Last night brought all this into sharp focus. I was driving down a dark dual-carriageway in Sandon, near Stafford. It’s a route I take every week or so and, as you come out of the village the speed limit rises to 60mph. There’s a long stretch of 4-lane road through the countryside. It’s familiar and the guy in front wasn’t in a rush, so I wasn’t surprised when a bloke in a BMW overtook me and the guy in front when the dual-carriageway opened up. I went round too, sitting behind the BMW in lane 2. My phone flashed up with a notification, then the BMW in front pulled back into the first lane and dropped his speed. Normally I would’ve carried on and kept in lane 2 at the 60mph limit. The BMW was now going no faster than the guy we’d both overtook.
At the last minute I decided to pull in behind him instead. Don’t ask me why. As I did, the BMW driver slammed his anchors on. Everything seemed to go in slow motion at this point as I noticed a Vauxhall Corsa, sitting very stationary and very sideways in the outside lane, with me fast approaching at over 50mph. Luckily I was already moving over a bit this point, but suddenly that manoeuvre became a bit more urgent and I somehow managed to miss it as his brake lights flashed past my drivers mirror.
It looked like he was trying to pull out of a farm and either didn’t realise that there was a solid central reservation or he’d perhaps experienced a brake failure as he rolled out of the driveway. Either way, as I checked my rear-view mirror I just managed to see his reverse lights flick on whilst headlights from oncoming cars bounced all over the place. One ended up on the central reservation, bouncing along the grass.
That, I have to say, shook me up. It was a split-second decision. If I’d have continued in the outside lane then, there’s no two ways about it, I’d have smashed into his drivers door at well over 50mph. Approaching it, I could see absolutely nothing until the very last second.
That message, whatever it was on my phone, really wasn’t worth me checking. Sure, for 99.99% of your driving day it’s boring, it tedious, it’s uneventful and it’s monotonous. I’ve seen truck drivers pouring soup, people reading iPads and watching movies. On the M6 the “drifting motion” of a car always signifies someone texting, but we all think we can do it. We all think we can multi-task.
Then, after many thousands of miles of dull driving, for one split second, you need to take quick action.
I got home and this video was in my inbox from the AA. Believe me, this is just a pure fluke that this video arrived on the same day, but I wanted to share it with you. It’s a full ten minutes long, but if you know someone who does a bit of “phone fiddling” when they’re driving, just ask them to give it a watch..