Make the glove box the phone box

Oxfordshire County Council’s Fire and Rescue Service is supporting the Department for Transport’s national campaign to try and reduce mobile phone use by drivers.

It’s a year since the government introduced tougher laws. You can get 6 penalty points and a £200 fine if you use a hand-held phone when driving. You'll also lose your licence if you passed your driving test in the last 2 years.

Still, according to the RAC report on Motoring 2017, 23% of drivers admitted to using a handheld mobile at the wheel to make or take a call in the past 12 months, and 12% admitted to checking texts, email or social media.

THINK!’s latest campaign challenges the misconception that a quick glance at your phone won’t put you and others in danger.

Educating young drivers and future learners

Andy Ford, Road Safety Team Manager at Oxfordshire County Council’s Fire and Rescue Service said: “Driving a vehicle on a public road is a huge responsibility and requires all of our attention. If you are driving, would you regret using that phone in any way that resulted in you killing or injuring someone else? How might your life be affected by that? If you are the person contacting that driver when they are on the move, would you regret knowing you were the one distracting them if the driver was killed or seriously injured, or it resulted in them doing that to someone else?”

The brain can’t multitask as easily as you think

The Road Safety Education Team is often asked; “What’s the difference between talking on a phone compared to when I talk with a passenger, isn’t that the same? The answer is no, it isn’t. As human beings, so much of our communication is done via body language. If we only hear what someone says it requires much more brain power for us to process the information”

What about hands-free? Even using a hands-free phone while driving does not reduce the risk by much. This is because the problems of mental distraction. Taking part in a phone conversation requires a driver to use mental imagery, as well as thinking about what they are being asked/told and what their response will be.

Worse still is the additional danger involved if a driver is texting/surfing/reading messages or searching for music; they’ll now have their brain, eyes and hands busy – with part of them only properly engaged in the task of driving.

How phones distract drivers

Cllr Judith Heathcoat, cabinet member for Community Safety said: “So many times I have seen drivers using their phone whilst driving – this leaves only one other hand free to handle the vehicle. Driving, especially with the volume of traffic and speed of traffic today on our roads requires full concentration and full physical contact – that’s both hands for driving safely. Remember no one is invincible”.

Why is this issue important? Because someone using a phone while driving is four times more likely to crash, resulting in injury or death for themselves or others (both inside or outside their vehicle).

Drivers who use a mobile phone when driving:

  • react more slowly, take longer to brake and longer to stop
  • are much less aware of what's happening on the road around them
  • fail to see road signs
  • fail to maintain proper lane position and steady speed
  • are more likely to 'tailgate' the vehicle in front
  • are more likely to enter unsafe gaps in traffic

Tips from the Oxfordshire Fire and Rescue Road Safety Team:

If driving

  • could you put an answerphone message on your phone, advising people you are driving and that you will respond as soon as you can?
  • could you put the phone on silent till you get to your destination?
  • could you put the phone out of reach (glove compartment or in back in back of car)?
  • after hearing text or call has been left for you, could you select a safe place soon after and retrieve the message/return call?

If you are the passenger, could you

  • take the call/reply to message on behalf of the driver?
  • tell the person trying to reach the driver that they are busy driving and advise them what time the driver will be free to reply/respond?

If you are calling someone who is driving

  • could you ask them when they’ll be free and agree to take up conversation later?
  • would you regret being the person who distracted the driver and they then injured someone else or themselves?

The Law

It is illegal to use a hand-held mobile phone while driving or riding a motor vehicle on the road. This includes: dialling, talking on the phone, texting, checking social media, taking a photo or any other interactive communication function. It applies even when a driver has stopped at traffic lights or is queuing in traffic.

The Law for Hands-Free:

Drivers who use a hands-free phone could still be charged with 'failing to have proper control of the vehicle', depending on the circumstances; Or with either careless or even dangerous driving in severe cases This includes: dialling, texting, checking social media, setting Satnav, or any interactive communication function.