Why your mobile phone is the most dangerous distraction on the road

Posted on September 20th, 2012 by GEM Motoring Assist

Why your mobile phone is the most dangerous distraction on the roadTechnology advances of the last 10 to 15 years have seen a remarkable change in the way we drive. With almost all drivers now in possession of a mobile phone, it has added an extra layer of complication and a great deal of distraction for drivers all around the world – so much so that UN Secretary-General Ban-ki Moon has stated that “phone use while driving is a killer.”

A recent study undertaken by esure car insurance revealed motorists take 23 per cent longer to respond to an unexpected occurrence on the road when trying to send a text message while driving – which equates to the vehicle moving 8.5metres ‘blind’ while driving at 70mph. It’s a bigger distraction than arguing children in the backseat (13 per cent) or feeling stressed (four per cent). A ringing phone can distract you for more than seven seconds, even if it goes unanswered while driving.

Using a simulator to conduct the study, esure also found that posting a status update on social media had various effects in driver performance mainly causing motorists to move across their lane to a greater extent, and even when they slowed down, the dangers were not mitigated.

Augusta, 24, admits to taking a photo in slow traffic, and then uploading it to Facebook. “I nearly crashed as I did it.” It’s not an uncommon sight to see people texting or following a map as they drive. Combined with other distractions like music, conversation and scenery, there is a lot to take driver’s minds off the task at hand.

The study also revealed that a phone ringing out of reach causes motorists to look away from the road three times longer (2.2 seconds more) compared to standard driving conditions and four times as long when receiving a text message (1.8 seconds longer looking away from road).

GEM CEO David Williams explains that the solution to this widespread problem is elusive: “in truth, most road safety professionals, police and the public have such mixed views…there could be more enforcement, but that is so costly and police numbers are being cut. Another option is bigger penalties, but culprits have to be caught first.” There is an Android app available called DriveOFF which disables the phone while in the car; however this is only a voluntary measure and not available for all phones.

We’ve produced a leaflet to help answer some common questions and provide road safety guidance. View the pdf here (or right-click and choose ‘Save as’ to download).

Have you had any dangerously close calls after using your phone while driving? How should we deter people from using their phones while driving?