Research by Kent County Council has found 65% of people fear the biggest risk to them on the roads is drivers using mobile phones whilst at the wheel.
The research, by KCC’s Road Safety Team, shows that motorists estimate 39% of drivers use a hand-held mobile phone, 34% use a phone to text/use apps/check email/use internet and 49% use a hands-free mobile device whilst driving.
This April, Kent County Council is launching an awareness campaign to remind drivers of the dangers of using mobile phones whilst driving.
It aims to remind drivers that mobile phones cause a huge distraction whilst driving and that it is a myth to think that it is possible to concentrate fully on two things at once.
The reality is that no two activities can be given equal attention – one task will always be more dominant. With a task as important as driving, even just a slip in concentration due to a mobile phone could lead to severe consequences.
Vicky Watkins, Road Safety Team Leader at KCC, said, “Using a mobile phone whilst driving impairs reaction time, reduces concentration levels, leads to poorer judgment of speed and distance and reduces your field of vision.
“Drivers using mobile phones make the roads less safe for us all. “It’s a fallacy to believe we can concentrate on two things at once. The reality is one activity will dominate the other.
“It’s not simply splitting your attention 50:50, it’s more like 95:5 with the task seeming the most important taking over – with drivers using a phone that means the call or text completely takes over from the driving.”
A video will highlight key every day moments where it would be perceived as ludicrous to answer a mobile phone and in doing so, emphasise that driving is another one of these moments.
The campaign will be running throughout April and will be on television and on-demand services, Heart Radio, bus rears, bus stop posters and social media.
Inspector Martin Stevens from Kent Police said, “Though the majority of people know it is wrong to phone or text at the wheel, some feel that using apps is acceptable.
“Doing this is just as distracting as calling or texting someone and just as likely to cause a collision. Furthermore should a motorist cause a collision or be caught on their phone, we can forensically examine it and find out exactly what the user was doing with their handset.
“Using a phone at the wheel is just as socially unacceptable as drink driving and both offences cost lives. Life lost on the road is a life wasted and a family devastated.
“So next time you are behind the wheel and get a mention, a favourite, a like or a direct message, ask yourself if you are literally dying to read it?”
Drivers are also being told not to be fooled into thinking hands-free calls are not illegal or ‘safe’. Hands-free phone conversations impair drivers to a similar degree as hand-held calls.
KCC’s research gives strong backing to the continuing need to raise drivers’ awareness of the increased risk they place themselves in when using a mobile phone at the wheel and to remind them that Kent Police are actively looking for them.
Matthew Balfour, Kent County Council Cabinet Member for Environment and Transport, added: “We want to help road users to make Kent’s roads safer and to reduce the number of people killed and seriously injured in the county.
“With this campaign the message is clear, make the right call – don’t use your phone and drive.
“We’ve found that a large number of drivers say they know using a mobile at the wheel is dangerous and unacceptable, yet many continue to do so. This campaign brings together the education message with an increased likelihood of being caught – key motivators to changing this behaviour.”
It is legal to use your mobile phone when stopping at traffic lights or queuing in traffic.
Incorrect – it is illegal to use a mobile phone whilst operating a car if the keys are in the ignition.
Using your phone via Bluetooth or hands-free device is safe.
Incorrect – it is almost impossible to concentrate on two things at once safely and using a hands-free phone or Bluetooth can be just as distracting as a hand-held device.
It is legal to use a hand-held phone whilst supervising a learner driver
Incorrect – you are not legally allowed to use a hand-held phone whilst supervising a learner driver.
You cannot call 999 or 112 if the vehicle is moving or if you are stuck in traffic.
Incorrect – in an emergency, you are able to call the emergency services whilst behind the wheel.
Talking on a mobile phone whilst driving is no different to speaking to a passenger.
Incorrect – talking to someone over the phone is much harder than talking to someone sat next to you. Not only are people on the phone harder to hear, they also cannot see the road and will not be able to respond to any changes e.g. keeping quiet when you need to concentrate more.
A quick text or status update is fast enough to not cause a distraction.
Incorrect – even the quickest message or status update involves thinking about before and after the action, which means your thoughts are no longer on the road, where they should be.
We can all multi-task, so using a phone and driving shouldn’t be a problem.
Incorrect – your brain cannot concentrate on two things at once equally, it will always pick what seems to be the most important activity and focus on that. Don’t let your mobile phone cause you to lose focus on driving safely.
The research was carried out by KCC Road Safety, with 500 motorists across Kent interviewed in December 2015.
The research highlighted:
65% of those surveyed felt that the biggest risk to them of drivers using mobile phones on the road is people texting or using the apps whilst driving; compared to those making hand-held or hands-free calls.
Motorists estimate using a hand held mobile at 39%, using a phone to text/use apps/check email/use internet at 34% and using a hands-free at 49%.
In March 2015, research carried out by KCC Road Safety, with 303 drivers across Kent highlighted:
59% of drivers surveyed admitted that mobile phones were a distraction to drivers
Only 4% surveyed said it was acceptable to take a hand-held call whilst driving, yet 27% admit to doing so (all drivers).
33% of 17-34 year olds admit to using their phone to text or use apps whilst driving in the last six months, with only 3% stating this is an acceptable act. The figure rises to 36% of 17-24 year olds.
37% of 17-34 year old drivers admit to making hands-free mobile phone calls in the last 6 months. This rises to 45% of 17-24 year olds; whilst this isn’t illegal, research carried out by Transport Research Laboratory clearly shows such calls impair drivers.
Transport Research Laboratory research shows the ‘percentage increase in distracted drivers’ response times’:
With no distraction – 0% (typical reaction time of 1 second)
At the Drink Drive Limit -13%
High on Cannabis – 21%
Using a Hands-free phone – 27%
Texting – 37%
Using a Hand-held phone – 46%