Using the phone while driving is illegal. There are no exceptions.
It’s still illegal if you’ve stopped at traffic lights, queuing in traffic, or just sitting in road works. It’s even illegal if you’re a driving instructor sitting in a car, supervising a learner.
If you’re in control of a vehicle, with the engine on, using your phone is illegal, and you can expect to find yourself in big trouble with the police if you’re caught. It’s an automatic punishment – three points and a £100 fine at the time of writing. It can be far worse for a driver if the case is deemed serious enough to go to court.
We’ve probably all wondered what the fuss is about. After all, if the traffic light is red, and nobody’s moving, you could probably tap out a text message or check your Facebook before the lights turn green. The problem is that that split second that you’re distracted can allow an awful lot of things to happen, either to you or because of you.
Statistics from a recent survey by Deloitte show that we Brits love our mobile phones, and just can’t take our eyes off them. The average user checks their phone 27 times every day, meaning a staggering 1.1 billion checks are made on phones every single day across Britain. That’s 400 billion times a year!
It’s not just drivers on phones you have to be careful of, either. A fifth of young people aged 18-24 have confessed that they look at their phones when they cross the road. If they’re not paying attention as they step out into the road, it’s going to need a motorist to be very alert to avoid disaster.
Another survey, this time by Transport Research Laboratory, looked into reaction times of drivers who were using their phones while driving were more dangerous than a driver who’d been drinking or taking drugs. Reaction time when speaking on a phone was down by 46%, and when texting, the reaction time was down by 37%.
Driving under the influence of cannabis brought reaction times down by 21%. Drivers who’d had a drink were found to be 13% slower to react. While not great, that’s still three and a half times better than someone using their phone while driving.
Humberside Police spent a month monitoring people behind the wheel, and convicted 150 people. That’s about five people per day in one single county. Multiplied by the number of police forces in the UK, and that’s quite a scary quantity of people who are blatantly disregarding the law and exposing others to danger on a daily basis.
ROSPA carried out a research survey throughout 2015, in which they studied people both holding phones while driving, and using hands free kits. While the study confirmed that drivers using a phone are obviously less aware of what is going on around them, they identified six behaviours which were particularly dangerous.
1) They did not notice road signs
2) They couldn’t maintain a steady speed or keep in the correct lane position
3) There was more chance of them tailgating vehicles in front of them
4) Slower reactions meant that it took more time to apply the brakes and stop
5) There was more chance they would attempt to get into unsafe traffic gaps
6) They felt more frustration and stress, and became prone to road rage
Any one of these behaviours could result in an accident, but it’s more likely that a driver on the phone would exhibit more than one of these, making them a double or triple threat if distracted.
Perhaps the most worrying thing is that according to Cornmill Insurance, 93% of young people are entirely aware of the dangers of using a mobile phone while driving, but the statistics still show them as being the highest users of mobile phones behind the wheel. A government survey into young drivers found:
16% of males under 25 had an accident as a result of using a phone behind the wheel
21% of all UK drivers admitted to taking a call when they were driving
33% of Facebook users have used the app on their phone while driving
44% of young UK drivers admit to sending a text while driving
58% of drivers under 25 say checking apps make an accident more likely
62% have read a text while in control of a vehicle
Car and phone manufacturers are doing their bit by ensuring that cars can link to your phone in the safest way possible, but ultimately, the decision to use the phone behind the wheel is down to you. Follow Brake’s road safety advice – switch the phone off before you drive off. These are serious driving lessons – no call or text is more important than arriving alive at your destination.