Driving & FOMO: Is our addiction to social media making the roads more dangerous?
Nearly a third of all people keep their phones in their pockets whilst they drive, meaning we’re constantly aware of receiving notifications and calls. The temptation and social pressure of staying in the loop means that more people than ever think it’s fine to use their phone whilst they drive. Katy Latta, working alongside Aviva on their #DriveSafer campaign, reveals why this is and the impact it’s having on road safety
The abbreviation ‘FOMO’, fear of missing out, was officially added to the Oxford English Dictionary in 2013. This term is often used to describe the sometimes all-consuming feeling of anxiety you might get from missing an event or occasion – insecure that something amazing or important might happen while you’re not there.
It’s a modern phenomenon born from recent advancements in communication technology and our increased obsession with staying connected. FOMO has started to encroach not only on our social lives and work lives, comparing ourselves to others and constantly checking our emails, but it’s also started to threaten our safety.
Aviva and RAC have recently released studies that indicate FOMO could be putting road users in danger. If it wasn’t bad enough that one in five people admit to answering calls using a handheld mobile phone, the same number of people (20%) think it’s safe to text or check social media whilst sitting in traffic - even though it’s illegal.
Whilst the risk of this kind of behaviour may seem obvious to most of us, the UK Department for Transport revealed that there were 500 incidents in 2015 involving the drivers using a mobile phone behind the wheel. Sgt Neil Dewson-Smyth from the Cheshire Police, who is currently running a #dontstreamanddrive campaign, shared his concern over this phenomenon:
“Holding the phone, reading comments and performing [for the camera] all mean the driver is focused far too much on what they are doing and who they can entertain or impress and not on their driving. That puts them, passengers, other drivers and pedestrians at a hugely increased risk.”
In fact, The Virginia Tech Transportation Institue in America found that you’re 23 times more likely to crash if you’re texting or using your phone at all whilst driving. Driving takes a lot of concentration and is a demanding task for your brain, we need to be aware that looking away from the road for a moment could potentially be fatal.
Aside from the dangerous and potentially fatal consequences of using your phone whilst driving we mustn’t forget that it’s illegal. Due to the issue becoming even more pertinent over the course of the year the government is introducing tougher sanctions. The new rules are expected to come into effect next year and will mean that drivers will get six points on their license and face a fine. Depending on how experienced a driver you are you might also face a driving ban or have to retake your test.
So, it’s really not worth the likes, the shares or being the first one to reply to an email. When you’re driving that should be where your concentration lies, as Sgt Dewson-Smyth says, if you are “half focused on [your] phone then tragedy is a heartbeat away”. Don’t let that text be your last and take all the precautions you can to avoid distraction until you’ve got yourself, and your passengers, safely from A to B.
There’s a whole host of distractions that could potentially hinder how safe we are behind the wheel, check out the Aviva Safe Driving hub for more on the psychology of distracted driving and making our roads safer.
[i] Online survey conducted by Aviva, finding out about how drivers engage with their phones. Results based on 2,021 respondents, nationally represented across GB between 11-12th June 2016