A figure buried in a police Press release made us stop in our tracks this week. Hopefully it will do the same for you.
It was: “Government figures suggest mobile phone use will become the biggest killer on our roads by 2015.”
Woah! Mobile phones in cars: the annoying habit people have that we kind of know is dangerous but most people have done at some time? Worse than drink driving? Worse than driving like on loon on the wrong side of the road? Worse than speeding after smoking a joint? Yup, it appears so.
And the obvious — the only — implication from this is that it won’t be long before the law reflects this. Caught driving and holding a mobile phone? Expect a year’s ban. Caught again — three years.
We Googled this, and in the (brief) search we made could find nothing usable for the UK but did find a report from the States; Americans are humans too, so what’s true there will be true here.
It seems that drunk driving has been replaced by texting while driving as the leading cause of teen death in the US.
A study conducted by the Cohen Children’s Medical Centre of New York found that more than 3,000 teens died each year as a result of sending SMS messages while operating a vehicle.
That compares to the 2,700 teens that are killed each year as a result of drunk driving.
The police repeatedly tell us how dangerous using a phone while driving is, but on radio discussions on the topic, there’s always some sort of debate, as if two sides existed.
But while people talked, the reality — that using a phone while driving is REALLY dangerous — has been contributing to figures that actually prove this.
As over here, the US study found that people did not appreciate how dangerous text and driving was. The author of the study, Dr Andrew Adesman, chief of developmental and behavioural paediatrics at Cohen Children’s Medical Centre, said that laws banning texting and driving were not effective. Just over half (57%) of all boys surveyed said that they texted while driving, even in states where it was against the law. This was about the same as those (59%) who sent out SMS messages while driving in states without such laws.
US lawmakers are trying to raise the fines for the offence — in the UK, it’s now a £90, with the level recently doubled.
If it’s really true that mobile phone use will become the biggest killer on our roads by next year, a £90 fine seems more than a little pathetic.
Prof Stephen Glaister, director of the RAC Foundation, has called for more police action in the UK, saying the use of hand-held phones at the wheel caused more impairment than being at the drink-drive limit or under the influence of cannabis.
We find a statement on the internet that texting at the wheel gives a 20-year-old the reaction times of a 70-year-old. How true that is we don’t know, but studies show that a person who is driving while texting is 23 more times likely to end up in an accident than a driver who doesn’t
A UK Transport Research Laboratory study found that sending a text slows reaction time by 35%. Using cannabis delayed it 21%, and drinking to the UK legal limit, 12%. Speaking on a phone slowed reaction by 46%.
Drivers also showed “significantly greater lateral variability” in their lane position when texting, with the vehicle drifting into adjacent lanes far more frequently when texting.
It seems inevitable that the law on phones will need to change, but we’d hope readers would not wait for a law change to amend their habits.