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[Photo by Tony Buser]
New research has shown that one in eleven drivers endanger their and other drivers’ lives by using their smartphone behind the wheel.
It is illegal to drive a vehicle or ride a motorcycle while using a hand-held mobile phone or smartphone. Receiving written messages while behind the wheel is also forbidden. Both these laws apply even when a car is stopped at traffic lights or stuck in traffic.
Yet, according to research conducted by road safety charity Brake and insurance company Direct Line, many drivers are taking the law into their own hands.
No win no fee solicitors can help people who have suffered a road traffic accident through no fault of their own make a personal injury claim to receive the compensation they deserve. Police can check mobile phone records to see if driver ‘distraction’ was a cause of an accident. But Brake are more concerned with tackling the driver behaviour which causes costly and painful accidents.
The survey of 841 drivers and riders found that nine per cent of drivers browse the internet, send emails, use phone apps or accesses social networking sites while driving on the UK’s busy network of roads.
These phone activities are usually only possible on smartphones such as Apple’s iPhone, the Blackberry or other devices with the Android operating system.
In August 2011, research from Ofcom found that over a quarter of adults (27 per cent) and nearly half of all teenagers (47 per cent) possess a smartphone.
The use of ‘old-style’ mobile phones also seems to be leading to potentially dangerous driving behaviour. Nearly three in ten drivers (28 per cent), the Brake survey reveals, have a habit of texting while driving. This is something that eight per cent do once a week.
Brake campaigns director Julie Townsend said: “People who text, use the web or engage in social networking when driving are taking enormous risks with their own and other people’s lives.
She added: “We are concerned that the increasing uptake of this technology could lead to more crashes and casualties caused by distracted drivers as is happening in the US.”
Ms Townsend quoted research conducted in Massachusetts and Virginia to back up her fears. The first research found that talking on a mobile or hands-free phone while behind the wheel quadrupled the risk of crashing.
The Virginia-based research found that texting at the wheel was even more dangerous – increasing the risk of crashing by 23 times.
In the light of such research, Brake has drawn up a list of recommendations which it hopes the coalition government will implement. These include:
•Changing the law so that drivers caught using a mobile phone while driving are handed a minimum 12-month disqualification. (The minimum punishment currently imposes three points on a driving licence.)
•Extending the ban on the use of hand-held phones behind the wheel so that the ban includes hands-free phones
•Adding road safety to the national curriculum “to ensure that the next generation of drivers understand the dangers of using a phone at the wheel”.
Explaining the recommendations, Brake’s campaign director Julie Townsend said: “Driving is the most dangerous and complex activity most of us do on a daily basis and it requires your full concentration. Your phone can wait.”
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