RoSPA welcomes the recent trial of an innovative scheme to discourage mobile phone use while driving. Since the start of 2019, Thames Valley and Hampshire police have been rolling out technology to show when motorists are using their phones.
A sign will flash at the driver telling them to stop using their mobile – but the detectors cannot tell if it is a driver or passenger using the phone. The police forces have said the technology will not be used as an ‘enforcement tool’ but is instead aimed at educating motorists and identifying offending ‘hotspots’.
As most people know, in December 2003 a law came into force to prohibit drivers using a handheld mobile phone, or similar device, while driving. Penalties for breaking the law have been steadily increased since March 2017, and now stand at a £200 fine and six penalty points.
Sadly, harsher punishments alone have not been enough to end the dangerous practice of using a mobile phone while driving. According to data collected by the Department for Transport, in 2017 there were 773 reported road casualties in the UK as a result of a driver using their mobile phone behind the wheel.
Having to pull over to check your phone or waiting until the end of your journey may be a slight inconvenience but this pales into insignificance when you consider the fact that distracted driving can cost lives. A tragic example of this is the case of Tracy Houghton, who was killed along with three children when a heavy goods vehicle crashed into the car they were travelling in. The lorry driver admitted to using his mobile phone at the time of accident. Furthermore, research by the World Health Organisation suggests that using a mobile phone while driving makes a motorist four times more likely to crash.
RoSPA advocates going further than the current legislation around mobile phone use while driving. Our position is very clear – anything that causes a driver to be distracted from the task at hand is a potential hazard.
Scientists at the University of Sussex have found that drivers using a hands-free phone get just as distracted as those holding it in their hand. The study found that those engaged in conversation took just under a second longer to respond to events such as a pedestrian stepping off the pavement.
For more information about mobile phones and driving please see our factsheet.
Nick Lloyd, acting head of road safety at RoSPA
Posted: 4/12/2019 11:32:46 AM