A campaign has been launched to highlight that using your phone hands-free whilst driving is as dangerous as being drunk at the wheel.
Research by Kent County Council has revealed that using a mobile hands-free impairs driving and increases stopping distances more than if you were at the drink-drive limit.
Kent County Council Road Safety Team Leader Vicky Harvey said: “This campaign aims to highlight to drivers that using your mobile phone hands-free is not as safe as you may think, even though its legal.
“Even an unimpaired driver travelling at 70mph will travel at least 31 metres whilst reacting in an emergency but at the drink-drive limit, due to the impairment, this extends to at least 35 metres.
“However, driving while talking on your hands-free mobile phone means you will travel at least 39 metres, a further eight metres before touching the brake pedal – that’s as long as a double decker bus.
“If it’s a hand-held phone, the impairment is even worse.
“Of course, delaying your reactions will extend your stopping distance so, working with our partners, this campaign seeks to highlight the additional risks drivers who use a mobile phone face.
“My advice is to delay the call, not your reactions.”
The faster you travel will mean you have less time to identify hazards and react to what is happening around them.
A survey carried out by KCC estimated 43% of drivers use hand held mobile phone when driving and 55% use hands free.
Last year, Kent Police recorded 1,096 offences of people using their phones at the wheel – up from 824 in 2016.
Chief Inspector Richard Smeed said: “At 30mph, in 2.3 seconds, you will cover 100ft of road, that’s the equivalent to the length of a Boeing 737. Those few seconds are comparable to the amount of time it takes to check your phone whilst driving.
“I’d like people to reflect on the opportunities for the unexpected to happen within that time and distance.
“It’s vital that motorists put safety first and keep their eyes on the road. It’s more than just a penalty; you could seriously injure or kill another road user going about their personal business by checking that text or taking a call.
“Officers will be working with partners and using an intelligence-led approach to catch and penalise those who disregard the law and drive whilst distracted by a mobile phone.
“The message is clear – don’t do it and don’t let others take the risk either.”
Kent Fire and Rescue Service Area Manager Prevention and Protection Colin King said: “Many people are more aware than ever that using a phone at the wheel is illegal and is socially unacceptable and very dangerous, but so many people still get easily distracted whether hands free or not.
“The statistics speak for themselves – mobile phone distraction can cause serious and sometimes fatal crashes on our roads.
“The impact a crash has is wide reaching devastation – it’s heart-breaking. Our crews are often the first on the scene of a crash and are faced with such harrowing scenes, which can stay with them for life.
“The message is clear, next time you are behind the wheel ask yourself if you are phone safe?
“Any call that comes through can wait until it is safe to answer. Resist the distraction – it’s not just your life.”
Medway Council’s Portfolio Holder for Frontline Services Cllr Phil Filmer said: “Any distraction whilst driving can affect your ability to drive safely, being distracted by a call or text, even for a moment, could result in a crash.
“I would encourage all motorists to put their mobile phones away whilst driving to avoid the risk of distraction.
“We all have a responsibility to follow road safety rules, so we can help reduce the number of incidents on our roads.”
The campaign will run throughout September and include radio, bus and social media advertising.