Safety campaign urges drivers to put down phones

18th November 2013

Road safety charity Brake has launched a campaign to cut down on the number of motorists who use their mobile phones behind the wheel of their car, after it was discovered that over half a million UK drivers have points on their licence for mobile phone-related offences.

The charity has called on drivers to 'tune into road safety' to prevent the crashes caused by multitasking behind the wheel.

Brake has urged drivers to turn off their mobile phones when getting into the car or even put it in the boot if they feel like they might be tempted to check their messages or make a call.

The road safety charity and its partners Specsavers and Romex revealed that 6.5 per cent of drivers with penalty points as a result of mobile phones and other distractions have six points or more and 78 per cent are male.

Perhaps more worryingly, six in ten children report being driven by a driver talking on a phone and nearly eight in ten have spotted drivers on mobile phones outside their school or home, which suggests that children are being endangered by those driving them.

The campaign is also being supported by the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO), which is coordinating a week-long campaign of heightened police enforcement across the country targeting drivers on hand-held phones.

National policing lead for roads policing, chief constable Suzette Davenport, said that drivers are increasingly allowing themselves to be distracted as technology has advanced. "While a phone call may be important for a few minutes, killing or seriously injuring someone has life changing consequences. While most road users are careful, considerate and law-abiding; a minority are not," she explained.

She pointed out that enforcement and awareness schemes are being carried out by the police across the country as part of Road Safety Week. Distractions can reduce hazard perceptions and increase reaction times in a similar way to drink-driving, which increases the likelihood of deaths and injuries on the UK's roads.

Research from distraction expert Dr Amy Guo at Newcastle University has indicated that the risk of using a mobile device behind the wheel can slow reactions significantly, which may mean that hands-free kits can also be a risk as drivers dedicate a lot of attention to the call.

Julie Townsend, deputy chief executive at Brake, said: "We're living in an age when being constantly connected is the norm; more and more of us have smartphones, and find it hard to switch off, even for a minute. While there are enormous benefits to this new technology, it's also posing dangerous temptations to drivers to divert their concentration away from the critical task at hand, often putting our most vulnerable road users in danger."

She pointed out that drivers who would never think of drinking and getting behind the wheel succumb to using their mobile device unaware of the consequences, which can be the same as drink-driving.

The charity is also calling on the government to do more to tackle the issue of drivers being distracted while behind the wheel, which may include the upping of fines for the offence.

Posted by Danielle Barge