In September 2016, the government changed the legislation concerning the use of mobile phones at the wheel. The penalty increased from 3 points to 6 and a £200 fine, however it appears this still isn’t enough to deter a significant number of drivers who still tweet, text, snap and speak on their handheld devices.
In a digital age, our phones have become more than a way to make and receive calls and messages. The introduction of artificial intelligence, the constant need to feel connected via social media and the accessibility to an abundance of apps, have transformed the way we think and use ‘mobile phones’.
Google maps, music streaming services, social media and messaging apps are the most common distractions caused by smartphones whilst driving. Although maps and music streaming may appear safe to use, they are only legally allowed when connected to a handsfree car kit and mounted in a suitable position on the dashboard or windscreen. It is illegal to touch the device once your engine is running, whether driving or stationary. Social media apps such as Snapchat or messaging services such as WhatsApp or iMessage should not be used whilst behind the wheel, yet thousands of motorists still do.
According to the RAC’s report on Motoring 2017, the top concern amongst motorists taken from a sample of over 1700 drivers is ‘drivers using handheld phones to talk, text or access the internet’.
It has been clear in recent news stories the devastating consequences of using handheld devices while driving. Dash cam footage has proved to be key in finding the source of these such incidences with the most prominent recent event being that of the crash on the A34 back in October 2016.
In the study by the RAC, despite the warnings and consequences, 23% of people admitted to using their handheld devices whilst driving in the last 12 months. Further research conducted stated that 23% of people did so as they didn’t think they would get caught. This suggests that there is still a substantial care free attitude towards using a mobile phone whether out of habit or a sheer lack of responsibility.
If smartphones are in a visible position whilst driving, any alerts can become distracting, even if the intention is not to respond to them. For Apple iPhone users this could become a thing of the past as good news comes from a new feature of the latest software update. The new IOS 11.0 software update for Apple iPhones features the 'driver do not disturb' mode which enables incoming calls when a Bluetooth handsfree device is connected. However, it blocks all other incoming notifications i.e. emails, test messages, app notifications etc. to reduce driver engagement and prevent the amount of distractions from handheld devices.
For more information about using Mobile Phones while driving click here to take a look at the government THINK! Fact sheet.