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Calls for More Action to Reduce Driver Distraction

A coalition of road safety organisations has called on the mobile phone industry to do more to help reduce the number of people killed or injured on the roads as a result of distracted drivers.


Technology Needed to Block Distractions

They say that technology to automatically prevent distracting alerts while driving is urgently needed to tackle "the needless deaths and serious injuries caused by drivers using handheld mobile phones behind the wheel". The coalition has therefore written to Android, Microsoft and the GSMA (Groupe Spéciale Mobile Association), urging them to include an 'opt out' driving mode as standard across mobile handsets.
They want other companies to follow the example set by Apple in its latest iOS system update, which includes a 'Do Not Disturb While Driving' mode that detects when someone is driving and turns off calls, text messages and notifications.

Increased Likelihood of Injury

“As a society, we have become addicted to our mobile phones, but a split second distraction caused by a call, text or notification behind the wheel can be deadly,” explained Brake's Director of Campaigns, Jason Wakeford. “The industry must play its part and include technology as standard which helps keep drivers' attention on the road, saving lives and preventing serious injuries.”
Research has shown that drivers using handsets when driving are four times more likely to be in a crash that causes injury, and reaction times when using a mobile at the wheel, are a staggering 33% slower than when driving after drinking at the maximum England and Wales drink drive limit. Studies have also shown that the mere sound of a mobile phone ringing causes distraction and can increase the crash risk.
In 2015 22 people were apparently killed and 99 were seriously injured in incidents where a driver was using a handheld phone behind the wheel. However, Brake highlights that there are likely to be many more crashes where the illegal use of a mobile phone was a contributory factor.

Tougher Penalties not a Deterrent

In light of these figures, it is even more alarming to read that there still appears to be a hard core group of drivers persisting in using a handheld mobile phone behind the wheel, despite the introduction of tougher criminal sanctions for those found guilty of committing the offence.
New research by RAC found that as many as 9.2 million drivers still break the law on a regular basis.
While the number of motorists who say they make or receive calls illegally at the wheel has fallen by a quarter (31% in 2016 v 23% in 2017), of those questioned about the impact of the tougher penalties 15% – or 5.3m drivers – said this had not made them stop. This is split between 8% (2.8 million) who said they had not changed their habit at all and 7% (2.5m) said it had not really made a difference.
“The numbers of drivers still using their handheld phones at the wheel remains at epidemic levels and is a serious problem for society,” commented RAC road safety spokesman, Pete Williams. “The Government, police and road safety organisations still have a huge job to do to end the handheld mobile phone menace.”

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