Survey reveals too many drivers still risking their lives for a phone call

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Survey reveals too many drivers still risking their lives for a phone call

10th April 2012

A road safety expert has called for the government to do more to tackle phone use behind the wheel after a survey revealed that nearly half of those questioned admitted risking their own and others’ safety by using a phone to chat whilst driving.

Joanna Bailey, a spokesperson for road safety charity Brake and an expert in road traffic injuries said it was crucial that people understood that using a phone whilst driving can be fatal.

“Using a phone and driving is a deadly combination, and no call or message is worth a person’s life,” said Joanna, a partner with the firm. “By using a hands-free or hand-held phone behind the wheel drivers are risking other people’s lives as well as their own. It is paramount they understand that using a phone in this way significantly reduces their ability to focus on the road ahead and react to potential hazards.”

The survey, conducted by Brake and Direct Line, found that 48 per cent of those polled admitted risking their own and others' lives by chatting on their phones while drivingand two out of every three drivers polled admitted to illegally using a hand-held phone behind the wheel.

“Research has shown that drivers either using hand-held or hands-free phones to chat whilst driving are four times more likely to be in a collision resulting in serious injuries or death (1),” said Joanna. “Many people believe the main risk factor involved in using a phone whilst driving is due to the holding of the phone itself, whereas the real danger is in the distraction of the actual call.

“Using a phone whilst driving can lengthen reaction times to a similar extent to drink-driving, significantly increasing the risk of a potentially catastrophic collision,” added Joanna. “In fact, the effect of talking on a phone on a driver’s performance has been shown to be worse than drinking certain levels of alcohol. Driver reaction times have been found to be 30 per cent slower while using a hands-free phone than driving with a blood alcohol level of 80mg alcohol per 100ml blood and nearly 50 per cent slower than driving under normal conditions (2).”

In contrast to many other types of deadly risk-taking on UK roads, both male and female drivers, young and old, were found to be almost equally guilty of phone use whilst driving, illustrating widespread misunderstanding of the dangers.

Men were found to be only slightly more likely to chat on their phones than women with younger drivers slightly more likely to do the same than older drivers. However, significantly more young drivers were found to regularly break the law by using hand-held phones than their older peers. Furthermore, young drivers were also found to be far more likely to use their phones to text, email or go online from behind the wheel.

“Drivers using their phones not only have slowed reaction times but they also have difficulty controlling speed and lane position,” said Joanna. “Despite this, a huge proportion of drivers put themselves and others in danger for the mere sake of a call or message, whether flouting the law by using a hand-held phone, or wrongly believing that a hands-free phone is the safer option.”

Driving whilst using a hand-held phone is illegal, yet many drivers continue to do this without a second thought. Whilst it is currently legal to speak 'hands-free' it's just as distracting and even the slightest distraction whilst driving can obviously have the most serious of consequences.

“Reading and writing text messages whilst driving is even more impairing as it takes your mind, hand and eyes off the road,” added Joanna. “Texting drivers have been found to have 35 per cent slower reaction times and poorer lane control than other drivers (3). Put simply, using a phone to text, email or browse the internet significantly increases the risks of serious injury or death.

“The government needs to do more to raise awareness of the dangers involved in phone use and driving,” said Joanna. “They must also look into introducing higher penalties for those who are caught using hand-held phones behind the wheel and consider a possible ban on hands-free phones. It is crucial people understand that phone use at the wheel can and does destroy lives.

“Drivers need to start placing their phones out of sight and out of mind and if it really is that important to take a call, to simply pull over somewhere safe first,” she added. “Texting, emailing, using apps or taking or making calls whilst driving, whether using a hand-held phone or not, involves repeatedly glancing at a screen and taking your eye off the road, inevitably putting your life and the lives of others at considerable risk. No call or text is ever that important.”

How can Fentons help?

Fentons has a specialist department experienced in handling claims for victims of road traffic collisions.

If you think that you have a case or require further information contact Fentons on 0800 0191 297 or fill in the online claims questionnaire.

Read more: Drive Smart

(1) Role of mobile phones in motor vehicle crashes resulting in hospital attendance: a case-crossover study, University of Western Australia, 2005

(2) Using a hands-free mobile whilst driving can be more dangerous than drink driving, Transport Research Laboratory, 2009

(3) The effects of text messaging on young novice driver performance, Monash University Accident Research Centre, 2006