Brake, the road safety charity, ran its Road Safety Week from 18th-24th November to help prevent appalling crashes caused by multitasking at the wheel. The "Tune in to Road Safety" campaign appealed to drivers to turn off their phones or put them in the boot and urges everyone to refuse to speak on the phone to someone who’s driving. It is launched a decade after hand-held mobiles were banned at the wheel and coincides with the week-long enforcement campaign.
Facts on driver distraction from BRAKE:
- Driving is the most dangerous thing most of us do on a regular basis: operating a potentially dangerous machine in an unpredictable, public environment requires full concentration at all times.
- In the UK, Ofcom has warned of increasing levels of smartphone addiction by users who are unable to go without checking their phone for short periods or through the night. Statistics from The Communications Market 2011, Ofcom, 2011
- It is believed around one in five crashes could be caused, at least in part, by driver distraction and drivers who perform a secondary task at the wheel are two to three times as likely to crash. Study data from National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 2006
- Some very complex tasks, like talking on a phone, whether hand-held or hands-free, increase this risk even more. From study by University of Western Australia, 2005
effect of talking on a phone on driving has been shown to be worse than
drinking certain levels of alcohol. Driver reaction times are 30%
slower while using a hands-free phone than driving with a blood alcohol
level of 80mg alcohol per 100ml blood (the current UK limit) and nearly
50% slower than driving normally and soberly.
Transport Research Laboratory, 2009
- Other forms of distraction not involving technology also cause risk. If you're eating or drinking at the wheel, you are less able to react; some studies have suggested the risk is as great as when talking on a phone. Brunel University, 2008
- Heightened emotions such as stress, anger or upset are cognitive distractions that significantly impede your ability to drive safely. The level of distraction depends on the level of distress. The Open University, 2011
According to Brake, drivers caught using a hand-held phone at the wheel to call or text face a (recently increased) fixed penalty notice of £100 and three points or may be offered a course instead of taking points.
In 2012, more than 10,000 drivers caught using their phone at the wheel took a ‘What’s Driving Us’ course instead of opting for points. In some cases, drivers may go to court and face disqualification and a maximum fine of £1,000.
Drivers who cause a crash and kill someone while using a phone could face up to 14 years in prison. Worst still they they will have to live with the knowledge that someone died because of their decision to use their phone at the wheel.
If you haven't done so already, Make the Pledge to drive more responsibly.