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To phone or not to phone…it’s no longer a question!

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Eyes on the road campaign

Tomorrow the law changes in regards to using handheld devices whilst driving. The new legislation means that motorists who are caught using a mobile phone whilst driving will receive 6 points to their licence and a £200 fine. This is double the previous punishment and is in support of a tougher stance on those breaking the law. Whereby motorists were previously subject to 3 points or an educational course with only a £100 fine, there will now be no ‘get out’… the punishment will be instant. Those caught by a Police officer will be automatically issued with a penalty notice or reported to the courts, dependent upon the circumstances of their offence. With many people admitting that they thought taking a quick phone call or texting whilst driving was acceptable, this new legislation hopes to outline that it is not a matter of opinion!

This will mean that new drivers who have held a licence for less than two years, will automatically lose that licence.  With evidence from a recent RAC survey showing that the age group 18-24 is the second biggest offender, those caught posing this risk will find themselves off the road for a while and have to re-apply for their provisional licence. With the majority of our learners fitting into this age category and knowing how hard they worked to get their driving licence we hope they are not tempted to pick up the phone!

But it is not just the law that is changing, it is also going to be better enforced with a week of action starting tomorrow. this will include the deployment of safety camera vans, targeting the hot spots where complaints have been received, such as schools and major trunk roads. There will also be marked and unmarked police cars at checkpoints and observation points.

Chief inspector Damien Kitchen stated ” Inattention and distraction, are as big an issue to road safety as speed, seatbelt use and drink/drug driving. The consequences of even a moment’s distraction can be devastating and our message is simple. It’s simply not worth taking that call or sending that text message, killing or seriously injuring someone, just because you picked up your mobile phone will live with you forever and destroy families. In addition, you could go to prison, lose your job and your licence”. The chief inspector was also quick to refute that it is another way of making money from fines, the police will not receive any revenue from the issued fines and instead, this will all go to the treasury and for him success will be ” that we don’t issue any fines again because people will simply stop doing it”, he also urges that people do not call or text someone who they know is driving and distract them from their task with the communication.

Here in Lancashire, Police and Crime Commissioner Clive Grunshaw says he welcomes the new legislation and hopes it encourages drivers to stop and think before they use their phones and they launched their awareness campaign #eyesontheroad a while ago to keep drivers informed of the risks and the changes, effective tomorrow.

So what do we need to know to stay within the law? Well according to Lancashire Constabulary, the law is still in reference to handheld devices and that the use of hands-free is still allowed but may be disputed if you are found to be distracted.  In a discussion on their facebook page,  a commenter asked about the use of hands-free sets. the constabulary responded ” you can use a hands-free kit which is properly installed as long as your phone is secured and you do not need to touch the phone to initiate the call, dial the number or end the call etc. You should also bear in mind that you may be committing an offence if you are distracted, whether or not the phone is hands-free. Hope that helps”.

RoSPA (the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents) believe hands-free mobiles are not enough and that whether hands-free or hand-held, the device poses a significant distraction.

After substantial research, they found that drivers who used a mobile device are:

  • Less aware of what is happening
  • fail to see road signs
  • fail to maintain lane position
  • react more slowly, take longer to brake and longer to stop
  • more likely to enter into unsafe gaps
  • suffer feelings of stress and frustration

They say that these risks are not reduced by using a hands-free device. This is because the risks are due to mental distraction and divided attention, which is taking part in the phone conversation whilst driving.

There is little point in having both hands connected to the steering wheel, if the brain is not connected to those hands

This phrase really illuminates what the real problem is and it is sometimes hard amongst all the media to remember, that it’s not just about breaking the law, the law is there for a reason and hopefully this will make our roads safer! We know from our driver training, how important reading the road is, it takes a long time to learn to react to possible hazards and without a driving instructor to check your brake, it is really up to you to ensure you can read the road yourself. Especially when other road users depend on you to drive safely.

 

Other devices are also covered by the legislation, such as sat navs and driving apps, to be clear, anything that separates your attention for a moment from driving, breaks the law. While it is ok to use a sat nav, the key must not be in the ignition, the engine must not be started and any route input must be done before the drive commences. Any adjustments during the journey can only be made by stopping off your route and without the engine running. Another Facebook commenter asked if it was ok to use a mobile phone as a sat nav? the constabulary responded “if your mobile phone is in a holder and being used as a sat nav this is OK as long as you are not touching it to change your route etc. If you want to do this you should park up in a safe place and switch your engine off”.

The change has also been a long time coming, with many campaigning for better enforcement by the police of the law and harsher punishment. Especially when it has become a growing problem, the RAC found that there was an increase from 7%- 19% of drivers using their mobile device whilst driving to call, text, email, post on social media and take pictures, from 2014-2016. What is even more shocking is their data showing how many surveyed admitted to taking photos and videos whilst at the wheel!

Rac survey into Mobile device use whilst driving

This graph shows the influence of social media on driving with a smart phone, as in the age category 17-24 a whopping 36% said they took photos or videos whilst actually driving and 44% thought it was ok to do so whilst stationary at traffic lights, many such images are often shared on social media sites. The next biggest offenders are the age group 25-44, where 31% surveyed had taken photos or filmed whilst in traffic. The new legislation will hopefully clear up any confusion, making it clear that any time on the road, whilst en route and behind the wheel, use of a mobile device is against the law.

Whilst researching the new legislation, I came across a few shocking images, the results of distracted drivers and the devastation those lost moments cause, a reminder of what the risks are. A great video that demonstrates this is on the Think website.

We hope you find our blog useful and just as we tell our learners to keep safe, we hope you do too, remember

“eyes on the road”!

Chris RichardsTo phone or not to phone…it’s no longer a question!

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