Figures out today (Thursday, 21 September) from the RAC reveal that 9.2 million motorists admit to habitually using their handheld phones behind the wheel, despite tougher penalties for the offence which came into effect in March.
The findings come just a week after a collation of organisations, lead by road safety charity Brake, wrote to Android, Microsoft and the GSMA (Groupe Spéciale Mobile Association), urging them to include an 'opt out' driving mode as standard across mobile handsets. The group has urged the industry to do more following Apple's release of its iOS 11 system update, which includes a 'Do Not Disturb While Driving' mode that automatically detects when someone is driving and prevents distracting calls, text messages and notifications .
Commenting on today's figures, Jason Wakeford, Director of Campaigns for Brake, the road safety charity, said: “The illegal use of handheld mobile phones when driving is a growing menace and a major threat to road safety. Research shows that using a phone at the wheel affects reaction times as much as drink driving, increasing the chances of a crash.
“As a society, we have become addicted to our mobiles, but a split second distraction caused by a call, text or notification behind the wheel can be deadly. Drivers should always put phones on silent and out of reach in the glove compartment. The mobile phone industry must also play its part, including technology as standard which helps keep drivers' attention on the road, saving lives and preventing serious injuries."
Brake is a national road safety and sustainable transport charity, founded in 1995, that exists to stop the needless deaths and serious injuries that happen on roads every day, make streets and communities safer for everyone, and care for families bereaved and injured in road crashes. Brake promotes road safety awareness, safe and sustainable road use, and effective road safety policies.
We do this through national campaigns, community education, services for road safety professionals and employers, and by coordinating the UK's flagship road safety event every November, Road Safety Week. Brake is a national, government-funded provider of support to families and individuals devastated by road death and serious injury, including through a helpline and support packs.
Road crashes are not accidents; they are devastating and preventable events, not chance mishaps. Calling them accidents undermines work to make roads safer, and can cause insult to families whose lives have been torn apart by needless casualties.