As an early adopter of mobile telephone technology, in the days when the battery pack alone was the size and weight of two house-bricks strapped together, I admit that making contact, while on-the-move, has many advantages. I was not alone, when the government introduced new phone usage laws in 2003, in feeling that it was just more unnecessary ‘tampering’ and revenue raising from fines that ranged between a first offence £30, to £1,000, should the case go to court.
In my case, hopping from car-to-car, often several times a day, with Bluetooth connectivity that was unreliable and not even fitted to some models, I felt that my privacy was being invaded. Interestingly and I am certain that it is linked directly to the practice having been declared illegal, I started to notice that using the mobile device on-the-move could cause me to lose my sense of direction, sometimes wandering across the road centre-line unnervingly.
Kwik Fit, the UK’s largest fast-fit company, has funded a survey that reveals some shocking responses and results. Of no less than 2.7m drivers that have had an accident, or swerved off the road, while distracted by their mobile phones, just over one million had collided with another car, while their attention was diverted from the road. A further 4% of all motorists, some 1.8 million drivers, have been involved in a collision in the last two years because another driver was distracted by their phone.
Despite the frequency of mobile phone distractions ending in collisions and that the use of phones without a handsfree set is illegal, many drivers seem unable to resist the lure of their screens. A quarter of motorists (24%) admitted to reading texts, when driving, while one in five (20%) confessed to sending them. Texting is just one of the distractions from phones and the most common reasons people give for using them at some point, while driving, are to take a call on-speaker (44%), make a call on-speaker (41%) and use the GPS, or satnav apps (40%).
Kwik Fit’s study found that men are more likely to use their mobiles for any reason while driving than women (28.2% vs 19.5%). This difference in attitude is likely to be a factor in the numbers of drivers having crashes (1.7million men vs 970,000 women).
The study also highlighted the danger into which younger drivers are putting themselves, as well as other road users. Kwik Fit found that an astonishing 18% of drivers aged 18-34 admitted to having had a collision, or veering off-road, while distracted by their phones, compared with 0% for drivers aged 55 or over. Drivers aged 18-34 are six times as likely to have read a text, while driving, and almost 13 times more likely to have sent one than those aged 55 and over. The research was carried out just three weeks ago.
Kwik Fit has launched an interactive game on its website to highlight how using a mobile phone when driving affects a motorist’s reaction times. People are invited to see first-hand how being distracted by a mobile phone can increase reaction times and cause serious risk to road safety. To try the ‘Kwik Fit Driven to Distraction game’, click here.