It’s never clever to use a smartphone while driving

Friday July 29 2016

  • Almost half of drivers aged 25-34 use apps while driving (49%)
  • More than half of 25-34 year olds read or write text messages while driving (55%) 
  • Drivers aged 18-35 are most likely to text or use apps behind the wheel

A new survey by Brake, the road safety charity, and Direct Line reveals around half of drivers aged between 25 and 34 are taking huge risks by texting, using apps or going online on their mobiles when they are behind the wheel.

More than half (55%) of 25-34 year old drivers questioned admitted they had sent or read a text message on their mobile, while behind the wheel of their car, in the last year.

Despite it being illegal to use a hand-held mobile phone at all while driving, more than four in 10 (42%) revealed they send or read messages at least once a week.

One in five young drivers (18-24) confirmed they regularly text and/or instant message when they are behind the wheel.

Just under half of drivers (49%) aged 25-34 admitted they sometimes go online or use apps (other than sat nav apps) while driving. Almost a third of drivers in that age group said they do that several times a week at least.

Driving is a highly unpredictable and risky activity, so it requires full concentration at all times. Drivers who divide their attention between their phone and the road are significantly increasing their risk of causing a devastating crash.

Reading and writing messages – whether texting, emailing or using apps or social networks – while driving is even more distracting than talking on a phone, as it takes your mind, hands and eyes off the road. Texting drivers’ reaction times are 35% slower and they also have poor lane control.[i] One large-scale study found texting drivers were 23 times more likely to crash than a driver paying full attention.[ii]

Reaching for a mobile phone can be an irresistible temptation for some, despite knowledge of the risks. In the UK, experts have warned of increasing levels of smartphone addiction by users who are unable to go without checking their phone for short periods or through the night.[iii]

A study of in-vehicle video footage estimated that 22% of crashes could be caused, at least in part, by driver distraction. It also showed that drivers who perform a secondary task at the wheel are two to three times more likely to crash.[iv]

Many drivers allow themselves to be distracted because they believe they are in control, and do not believe distraction poses a significant risk.[v] However, research shows drivers are not able to correctly estimate how distracted they are[vi] and 98% are not able to divide their attention without a significant deterioration in driving performance.[vii]

REAL LIFE IMPACT  - case study

42 year old teacher, and mum of two, Zoe Carvin was killed when a 26 year old lorry driver ploughed into a queue of traffic because he was reading a text message. Her husband Paul Carvin said: “When Zoe died it wasn’t as if she had cancer that couldn’t be cured, it was because someone did something stupid. It was such a pointless death. Her death affected hundreds of lives. Two children have been brought up without a mother, 30 children lost their teacher, a driver has been jailed for three years; his life will never be the same either. My daughter recently got engaged and is planning a wedding without her mum. Family members have suffered with depression; it affects us every single day. I recently saw a young woman texting with two small children in the car swerving all over the road obviously not in control of her vehicle. If she only knew what it would feel like for them to grow up without her, or for her to live without them. Crashes like this devastate families. They are entirely preventable.”

Alice Bailey, campaigns and communications adviser for Brake, the road safety charity, said: “Younger drivers, especially those aged between 25 and 34, simply aren’t getting the message about the dangers of using a mobile phone while driving. Doing any other complex task while driving hugely increases your chance of crashing. We’ve seen recent examples of drivers who have crashed while trying to play games like Pokémon Go or posting Snapchat images while behind the wheel. These drivers are putting their own and other people’s lives in grave danger by taking this risk. If a phone has to be used as a sat nav, it must be programmed before setting off on the journey and properly secured. There is no other acceptable way to use a phone while driving.”

Rob Miles, director of car insurance at Direct Line said: “Reading a text message is not a matter of life and death but taking your eyes off the road could well be. It’s simple – wait until your journey is finished or you are safely parked somewhere before you use your phone.”


Notes to Editors:

Full survey results

The survey consisted of 1,000 drivers and was conducted by Surveygoo.

Q.1 Within the past year, have you driven while sending or reading a text or instant message?

                                                                                  Age Band

                                                  Total    18-24    25-34    35-44    45-54    55-64    65+

Yes, once a day or more           2%         8%       10%       1%      2%        0%        1%

Yes, several times a week         6%       12%      28%        6%     3%        2%        1%

Yes, once a week                       2%         3%        4%        5%      1%        1%         0%

Yes, once a month                     0%         4%        1%        0%       0%        0%        0%

Yes, only once or twice              5%        7%       12%      10%      6%        2%        1%

No                                              85%       67%       45%      79%     88%      95%      97%

Q.2 Within the past year, have you driven while using the internet, social media or other apps on your phone (not including using it as a sat-nav)?

                                                                              Age Band

                                                      Total    18-24    25–34   35-44    45-54    55-64    65+

Yes, once a day or more             3%       4%      17%        2%        2%        0%         0%

Yes, several times a week           4%     12%      14%       6%        3%        0%         0%

Yes, once a week                         0%       2%        0%       1%         0%        0.5%     0%

Yes, once a month                       1%       2%        2%       1%         0%        1%         0%

Yes, only once or twice                3%       8%      16%       8%         0%        0.5%     0%

No                                                89%      72%      51%      82%      95%      98%    100%


About Brake

Brake is a national road safety 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 campaignscommunity 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.

Follow Brake on TwitterFacebook, or The Brake Blog.

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.

About Direct Line

Started in 1985, Direct Line became the first UK insurance company to use the telephone as its main channel of communication. It provides motor, home, travel and pet insurance cover direct to customers by phone or on-line.

Direct Line general insurance policies are underwritten by U K Insurance Limited, Registered office: The Wharf, Neville Street, Leeds LS1 4AZ. Registered in England and Wales No 1179980. U K Insurance Limited is authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority.

Direct Line and UK Insurance limited are both part of Direct Line Insurance Group plc.

Customers can find out more about Direct Line products or get a quote by calling 0345 246 3761 or visiting

[ii] Driver Distraction in Commercial Motor Vehicle Operations, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, 2009

[iv] The impact of driver inattention on near-crash/crash risk, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 2006

[v] Driver distraction, RoSPA, 2007

[vi] Assessing the awareness of performance decrements in distracted drivers, Liberty Mutual Research Institute for Safety, 2008

Tags: mobile phone research distraction