On the fifth anniversary of the introduction of law making the use of hand-held mobile phones whilst driving illegal, the RAC Foundation is urging drivers to switch off their phones whilst driving and to catch up with their news later. Last year 348 people, of whom 25 died, were involved in accidents where the police recorded that the driver had been using a mobile phone.*
On 1st December 2003 it became illegal to use a hand-held phone whilst driving or to cause, or to permit another person to do so. But recent RAC Foundation research** has underlined the massive road safety problems caused by using mobile phones behind the wheel - particularly texting which too many young people think is not dangerous.
Carrying out the first UK research into the effects of texting while driving, the RAC Foundation and TRL used TRL's driving simulator to research the effects of writing, reading and ignoring text messages on the driving skills of a test group of 17 - 24 year old motorists. In all key measures of driving performance, young people who were texting and driving were badly affected:
+ Reaction times deteriorated by over one-third (35%).
This was worse than driving with the legal limit alcohol in the blood (12% slower) and driving under the influence of cannabis (21% slower)
+ Drivers drifted out of their lane more often.
Steering control was 91% worse, compared to 35% worse when under the influence of cannabis.
+ The ability to maintain a safe following distance fell.
TRL's experts concluded that "In real world traffic situations, it is suggested that poorer control of vehicle speed, lateral position, and increased reaction times in this situation would increase the likelihood of collision dramatically."
Professor Stephen Glaister, Director of the RAC Foundation, said: "The participants in this study were almost unanimous in their view that drink driving was the most dangerous action on the road. Yet this research clearly shows that a motorist who is texting is significantly more impaired than a motorist at the legal limit for alcohol. No responsible motorist would drink and drive. We need to ensure that text devotees understand that texting is one of the most hazardous things that can be done while in charge of a motor car."
Notes to Editors
*Road Casualties Great Britain: 2007 published by Department for Transport. Table 4b
**The Effect of Text Messaging on Driver Behaviour: Royal Automobile Club Foundation 2008