Despite this, many drivers try to multitask – with mobile phones or other distractions such as eating – dramatically increasing their risk of causing a crash. More than two in five crashes are thought to be caused, at least in part, by driver distraction.
According to the Road Safety Charity, Brake, if you talk on a phone at the wheel – hands-free or hand-held – your risk of causing an injury or death is four times as high. Use a phone to text, email or browse the internet and the risk is much higher still. In fact, the impact of using a phone on reaction times is on a par with drink driving. Yet a huge proportion of drivers put themselves and others in danger for the sake of a call or message, whether flouting the law by using a hand-held phone, or wrongly believing that hands-free is a safe alternative.
What needs to be done?Drivers can help make our roads safer by putting phones out of sight and reach when driving to avoid temptation, ideally in the boot. On long journeys, you should take regular breaks and use these to check for messages. Phones and driving are a deadly combination, and no call or message is worth a life.
Brake are calling on government to ban hands-free phones at the wheel, in line with the evidence that they increase crash risk just as much as hand-helds – it's the distraction of the phone conversation itself that causes the danger. The rise of in-built car 'infotainment' systems presents an added source of distratction and the government needs to act to regulate them.
Brake say that there also needs to a much higher penalty for phone use at the wheel – from the current £100 to at least £500-1,000 – so drivers take it seriously, combined with stepped-up enforcement by making traffic policing a national policing priority.
For more information on Brake, please visit their website.
The Good Garage Scheme supports the Road Safety Charity, Brake ahead of Road Safety Week in November.