Exactly how dangerous is mobile phone use behind the wheel of a modern car? From the so-called crotch watchers with phones in their laps at slow moving junctions through to the lunatics having a little look on motorways, there’s no part of our traffic system where people won’t get on the smartphone.

We get it. Driving in some of the world’s busiest urban environments can be nothing short of a bore. Car gridlock promotes a stop start flow of traffic which does mean you can be marooned behind the wheel for hours with nothing to do. It’s all too easy to reach down into your pocket, bag or interior, pick up your phone and start swiping your way through WhatsApp, social media and Instagram looking for something a little less boring. 

However, many people seem to believe that looking at your phone whilst out on the road is not really a thing – and indulge this habit on a daily basis. Exactly how dangerous is this behaviour?

1 in 5 people 
are checking texts.

How common is Phone Use on the Road?

According to a recent RAC report commissioned in 2018, the worrying figure is that around 1 in 4 of us is still picking up our phone when we’re driving. Although more people are answering calls – which perhaps isn’t as dangerous with the hands-free allowing you to keep your eyes on the road, but still illegal, 1 in 5 people are checking texts, email and social media and almost as many are actually making posts. The problem with these behaviours is that you can never actually imagine how calamitous the effects of mobile phone use behind the wheel before it is too late.

The Science

Have you noticed how pedestrians can get glued to their phones when walking down the pavement and not even see you? This is known as inattention blindness and the same problem occurs behind the wheel, even when you’re on the hands free. 

Psychologists in the US claim that only using the hands free kit when behind the wheel can reduce visibility by up to 50%. The same findings make some pretty alarming reading challenging modern ideas about multi-tasking. Although much of the modern tabloid media likes to claim that being able to perform several tasks at once is a thing – this report challenges that belief, telling us that we can only put our focus in one task at a time. And by concentrating on a mobile phone, all our other reactions behind the wheel will inevitably suffer. 

The baseline figure stated in this report is nothing short of damning. Mobile phone use increases your chances of being in an accident by 400%. When you factor in that this might not be another car you hit – this is very frightening and should make anyone think twice about even making a call on the speakerphone.

Mobile Phone: Comparisons

Even though there was a time way back when it was completely socially appropriate to have a couple of bottles of your favourite poison before going out for a day trip in the motor, such behaviours are now completely taboo. You might however be surprised to find that mobile phone use is as bad as being over the legal limit for alcohol. Remember those US psychologists? They found that drivers using phones had reduced braking times and even those using hand free kits didn’t pick up on obviously traffic cues to slow down and start braking earlier.

Penalties for mobile phone use behind the wheel

The law takes a pretty dim view of mobile phone use in your car. And quite rightfully so. Officers have even been known to board double decker busses to spy on drivers from the top section, issuing fines via photographic evidence. Since March 1st 2017  the law can give you a fixed penalty of £200 and 6 points for using the phone when driving. 

And if you don’t have full view of the road or aren’t in complete control of your car then it’s 3 penalty points. Should the matter go all the way to court then you could be disqualified and new drivers found breaking this law will automatically lose their license and have to take the test again.

What’s the Answer…? 

At One Woman Owner we like to have an opinion and think it’s important to stand up for your beliefs. There was once a time when driving with the kids rolling about on the back seat was acceptable and now we’d never think to not make sure they’re strapped in with proper child seats. Times change. And it’s important for us to raise our standards. 

If you were at a party and a friend had been hitting the white wine and wanted to get behind the wheel, then they’d be uproar and people would be right to take away her keys. It’s only when we start making a similar fuss over mobile phone use with our friends and best beloved, turning it into a real social stigma that people will actually sit up and take notice.

The One Woman Owner Final Word

The team at the office have come to a quick consensus. Sure all of us love cars and some of us even love to race in fast, dangerous super cars, and we really get why mobile phones can be a real problem behind the wheel. So we have a policy where when we get into the car, the phone goes off and onto the back seat. This means no distractions and no calls. And you know what? It’s actually quite relaxing to take a break from the continual stream of electronic demands and hassle. 

Enjoy your driving. Be safe and leave the phone alone.

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