Driving requires concentration at all times. In the UK during 2007, there were 125 fatal collisions in which a driver was distracted, either by something inside or outside the vehicle.
Research shows that reaction times when using a handheld mobile phone are 50 per cent worse than during normal driving and 30 per cent worse than for driving under the influence of alcohol at the legal limit. You are four times more likely to crash when using a mobile phone while driving. Sending and receiving text messages while driving can be even more dangerous than conversing on a mobile phone as it required the driver to use occupy both their hands and eyes. This is a particular problem in young drivers and studies have shown that almost a third of 18-24 year olds admit to texting while driving.
Using a handheld mobile phone or similar device while driving is illegal and carries a penalty of a £60 fine and 3 penalty points. If the case goes to court, this could be as high as a £1,000 fine (£2,500 for bus, coach or heavy goods vehicle drivers), discretionary disqualification and 3 points. A conviction for driving while using a mobile phone could also affect your insurance costs. If you are involved in a collision while using a phone, you could be charged with careless or dangerous driving.
Between August 2008 and August 2009, West Midlands Police prosecuted 7,283 drivers for using a mobile phone while driving.
Other potential distractions while driving include handsfree mobile phones, satellite navigation systems and MP3 players. Though none of these are illegal, caution must be taken when using such devices. You can still be prosecuted if you are distracted and not in proper control of the vehicle, with the same penalties as for using a handheld phone.
- As soon as you find yourself becoming distracted, retrain your focus on the road.
- Where possible, ask a passenger to take control of the stereo, change tracks on a CD or MP3 player or operate a satellite navigation system. If you're driving alone, then make sure to stop before using such devices.
- Even if you're stopped in traffic or at traffic lights, you are still in control of the vehicle and could be prosecuted for using a mobile phone.
- However tempting, do not use a mobile phone while driving. Let calls go to voicemail and wait until you are parked safely before you check voice or text messages or make calls.
- Don't be distracted by conversations with passengers. It is always safest to stop talking when you need to concentrate.
- If you call somebody who is driving, tell them you will call back later and hang up.
- Though it isn't illegal to use a mobile phone while cycling, cyclists still need to maintain concentration and you could be prosecuted for careless or dangerous cycling.