Despite high profile government and police campaigns highlighting the dangers of using a mobile when driving, many motorists are still flouting the law and putting their lives, and those of other road users, at risk.
A new study for Kwik Fit, the UK’s leading automotive servicing and repair company, reveals that a third (34%) of drivers are still using their mobile phone without a handsfree set1.
The figures are especially alarming as the most recent government statistics show that in five years there was a 24% increase in the number of accidents in which a contributory factor was the driver being distracted by using a mobile phone2.
Kwik Fit’s study revealed that more than a quarter (26%) of drivers use their satnav or GPS on their phone, while almost one in five say they take calls (19%) or read text messages (17%). One in six (16%) make calls without a handsfree set, with around one in eight (12%) sending texts. Although some drivers claim they only use their phone in an emergency, more than half a million motorists admit to making calls on almost every journey they make.
Four months on from the introduction of increased penalties for mobile phone use, many drivers remain unaware of the laws and the penalties for breaking them. More than two in five people (43%) do not know that the penalty for using a hand-held phone when driving is six points. The additional focus on inexperienced drivers has also passed many people by, with only 47% of Brits knowing that those caught using a phone without a handsfree set in their first two years will lose their licence.
It is worrying that it is the youngest drivers who are the most ignorant about mobile phone rules, despite the use of a handheld mobile phone having been illegal since before they started driving. Drivers aged 18-24 are nearly three times more likely than the average motorist to believe it’s legal to use your phone when stopped at traffic lights, and twice as likely to say you can answer calls but not make outgoing ones, and that drivers are allowed to use their phone in slow moving traffic. All these statements are incorrect.
It is also the youngest drivers who are most likely to have experienced trouble on the road due to mobile phone use. 40% of 18-24 year olds have either had a collision or near miss, or got involved in an argument because somebody was using their mobile phone, more than double the figure for all drivers. Almost one in ten (8%) drivers aged 18-24 say they have had a collision because they were distracted by their mobile phone, with a further 8% saying they have almost done so. This compares with figures of 2% and 3% respectively for all drivers.
While many of these collisions may be minor bumps with no injury, government data reveals that there has been a large increase in serious accidents where a contributory factor has been the driver using a mobile phone. The number of accidents in which people were killed or seriously injured increased by 25% between 2011 and 2015, the most recent years for which full data is available. Although the number of fatal accidents in which a driver has been distracted by a mobile phone has remained consistent at an average of 22 per year – there has been a big rise in the number of accidents resulting in serious or slight injuries.
Flouting the laws on mobile phone use is most common in London, where nearly half of drivers (47%) say they use their phone without a handsfree set. The most law abiding region is the East of England, yet even here, almost a quarter (24%) admit to breaking the law when it comes to mobile phone use.
Roger Griggs, communications director at Kwik Fit, said: “The findings of this study are very worrying indeed. While car manufacturers have made great strides in improving safety, it is vital that drivers remember that they are the most important safety feature in the vehicle. Any form of distraction can have serious consequences, as sadly, the statistics clearly show.
“It is especially important for inexperienced drivers to be fully focused on what they are doing. The fact that this report has found that younger drivers have less knowledge of the rules and are more likely to take risks means more needs to be done to educate them in the very first weeks and months of driving. Kwik Fit is working with schools and colleges around the country to hold events aimed at improving the safety of those drivers who are new to the road and education on the use of mobiles is an important part of that.”
Any school, college or other youth group who would like to hold a free road safety event can contact their local Kwik Fit centre who can help arrange it.