Gary Rae: No call or text worth risk to life

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I am reasonably certain that you can recall incidents of dangerous and illegal driving, involving the use of mobile phones. You may even admit to using phones when behind the wheel?

Just over ten years after hand-held mobiles were banned at the wheel, my organisation has revealed that one in eight drivers still flout the law and put lives at risk by continuing to use hand-held phones when driving.

If that were not bad enough, we believe there is a growing threat to the safety of drivers and other road users, through the use of hands-free devices. Their use is on the increase.

Back in 2006, only one in five drivers admitting using them. Today, it’s one in four. For the past decade, the lack of a total ban has left many drivers unaware that using a hands-free mobile at the wheel is just as risky as using a hand-held.

According to the Brake and Direct Line survey, three in ten don’t know that any type of phone use while driving is dangerous. In reality, it is the distraction of the conversation that causes the danger.

Studies have shown the risk of being in a crash that causes injury is increased four times for drivers on both hand-held and hands-free phones.

What is especially worrying is the growing habit of texting at the wheel, especially among young drivers – 44 per cent of younger motorists admit to sending or reading messages while driving.

With our mobile devices becoming ever more sophisticated, there is the additional threat – and we have evidence – of drivers actually checking their social media apps, whilst driving.

When the eyes are off the road and on the phone, that’s when crashes happen.

No call or text is worth a life. That’s why we are calling on government to introduce a total ban on mobile phone use at the wheel, to prevent the hundreds of senseless crashes, deaths and injuries that occur every year.

Through a combination of education and enforcement, we hope that as drivers become more aware of the dangers inherent in the use of mobile phones whilst driving, it will become as much of a social taboo as drink driving has become in recent years.

In the meantime, we’re advising drivers to remove any temptation by turning their phones to silent and putting them in the boot, out of sight and reach.

Everyone can help by refusing to speak to someone on the phone who is driving. Ending the call if they’re at the wheel could well stop them ending their own, or someone else’s life.

Gary Rae is senior campaigner for Brake, the road safety charity.