Distractions, and not just on our mobile phone, have always been one of the main causes of road accidents. A driver is also distracted by worries, by yawning, by feeling too tired. Indeed, it is in fact increased distraction that emerges from data collected by the Fondazione Vinci Barometer of responsible driving, according to which specifically during the Covid-19 emergency, certain moments of inattention had an even more significant influence on the behaviour of motorists, including infringements of the Highway Code and an arbitrary interpretation of the rules to be followed. Underlining the threat of dangerous driving may seem to some people as rather trivial and obvious, despite the fact that the media regale us every day with a tragic sequence of road accident victims, both adults and youths alike, men and women who only have the reason for tragedy in common (and it is paradoxical that 93% of those interviewed are afraid of the unconscious behaviour of other drivers, but at the same time 88% admit to speeding.) It makes no difference whether they are drivers who were reckless in their driving or pedestrians who have suffered the consequences, what matters is that, as is evident, there is still a great need to raise awareness of how to behave on the road.
But there is one more thing, because the survey, conducted by IPSOS across 12,400 people in 11 European countries, presents an overview of the main behaviour of Europeans behind the wheel, along with an analysis of their relationship with the rules, not only in relation to the Highway Code, but also in relation to the existing anti-Covid health rules, which were also affected by infringements among those who admitted that they wanted to claim back their right to freedom, that they could ignore them because they are healthy and vigilant, and thus are not to be considered “at risk” (how often have we heard this during this past year?). As a result, 36% of European drivers who declared that they have broken the health rules often also infringed those of the Highway Code.
Let's talk about risks. What generates them or increases the possibility of their occurrence is often tiredness, considering that 24% of European drivers think that they can drive even if they are completely tired and have already had the impression that they may have dozed off behind the wheel for a few seconds, or that they may have veered into the emergency lane because they fell asleep at the wheel (in this case, 15% declared this). All of this, while good practices to avoid such situations are actually diminishing, such as the decision to stop in a rest area and get some sleep if too tired, or swap drivers. The pandemic and all its consequences, in fact, has not failed to have one certain impact on practices of this kind, so much so that 25% of drivers would have taken less of a break than usual, during long journeys, precisely to avoid getting out of the car and risk infection. There are also other bad habits, such as alcohol consumption, taking drugs and medication, poor attention to the road (23% make phone calls while driving without using the hands-free speakerphone function, while 22% always send or read text messages or e-mails while behind the wheel, but there are those who, fortunately only 7%, although this is still a high figure, watch a film or videos on their smartphone while driving), not to mention the fact that 19% of those interviewed admitted to driving without wearing their seatbelt, or to driving in the middle lane on the motorway, despite the slow one being completely free (50%).
We know that, once drivers have passed their test, there is no legal requirement for an update of driving training or refresher courses for everyday drivers, i.e. that very high number of people who get around by car for a large number of hours every week for business, leisure, and personal commitments. People who differ greatly in their age, experience, character, driving skills, perhaps some even driving in a hurry, distracted by a phone, with a lack of ready reflexes who take to the roads, putting at risk their own life together with that of others. Indeed, just this year, during which we talked about risks and fallibility more than usual, similar numbers should encourage us to think deeply, to remember that, in fact, we ourselves, with everything we can commit to doing and not doing, are the first true safety device possible.