Blog: Message is simple – don’t text and drive

The simple, but hard-hitting, warning not to text and drive.

The simple, but hard-hitting, warning not to text and drive. - Credit: supplied

Sometimes it's the simplest things that really get the message across.

With the government currently undertaking a public consultation to consider tougher penalties for motorists who use a mobile phone while driving, I came across this rather poignant advert from Volkswagen which, in just over seven words, says it all when it comes to the dangers of texting and driving.

The ad has actually been around a couple of years but but, if it was ever used in this country, it had passed me by.

Any use of a mobile phone, even on hands-free is said to affect your concentration when it comes to driving, but I have a fear of people texting or reading messages on their mobile phones while at the wheel.

We've all seen them, especially in slow-moving queues of traffic and jams. They're the ones who are looking down at their laps, thinking no one will notice what they are doing.

A couple of weeks ago I had the driver behind me constantly looking down at their phone in a stop-start line of traffic and a couple of times they came a little too close for comfort to my back bumper. And only this week I had to hoot at the car in front after the rest of the traffic moved off at the traffic lights and was a good 25 metres ahead and the driver was still, I assume, reading a text message and oblivious they were holding everyone up.

Unfortunately many drivers are unaware of and flout the existing rules regarding mobile phones and driving, putting themselves and others at significant risk.

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A recent YouGov survey, commissioned by legal firm Simpson Millar LLP, found that 89% of British adults recognise that there is a penalty for using a mobile phone at the wheel, but just under half (47%) know it. It is illegal to use any hand-held mobile device while driving – even when the car is stationary in traffic. Motorists currently face three penalty points on their driving licence and a £100 fine.

Many motorists still dispute the law with 18% of those who have used social media at the wheel agreeing that they can check or update social media and drive safely at the same time. A staggering 46% of them believe accessing social media does not cause a problem if stationary in traffic. And 8% admit to using social media behind the wheel – 26% of those admit the desire to keep in touch with people was one of the main reasons they flouted the law. Meanwhile, one in six has made or accepted a call on a mobile phone without driving without a hands-free kit.

Shaun Helman, head of transport psychology at the Transport Research Laboratory (TRL), said: 'Any task that involves holding a device, looking at it, and interacting with it during driving will adversely affect driving performance. We recently found that between 10 to 30% of road accidents in the EU are at least partly caused by distraction, and social media is an increasing risk in this area.

'Obviously some people, some of the time, value their social connectivity more than they value their safety and the safety of others. It is this perspective that should be targeted.'

If the latest government plans are approved, offending motorists will face four penalty points (six points for HGV drivers) and a £150 fine. Most first-time offenders will still be offered driver awareness courses to change their behaviour.

Have you been in an accident or had a near-miss as a result of someone using a mobile phone. Email motoring@archant.co.uk

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