Brake warns: Driver distraction causes motor vehicle accidents

road traffic accidentA new campaign is warning drivers of the dangers of multitasking while driving.

To mark the start of Road Safety Week on November 18th, road accident prevention charity Brake is partnering with Romex and Specsavers to reduce the number of preventable road traffic accidents on the UK’s streets. The campaign group is asking drivers to switch their mobile phones off or to put them in the boot of the car when behind the wheel, and for people to refuse to speak with someone on the phone when they know they are driving.

Using hand-held mobiles whilst driving has been illegal for ten years, and could see offenders receive three penalty points and a fine of up to £100. If the case goes to court, people can be disqualified from driving and be fined as much as £1,000. If distracted drivers are in a car crash and kill another person, they could go to jail for up to 14 years.

Currently, 575,000 people have received penalty points on their licence for driving while on a mobile phone or otherwise distracted. Men are disproportionately more likely to do so than women – 78% of all those penalised are male – while 6.5% of people with penalty points have received over six points for being distracted.

But it’s not just drivers themselves who are at risk when they use a mobile phone – not only are other road users put in unnecessary danger, but Brake found children are also put in peril. 62% of children polled said they had been driven around by someone who was talking on their phone, with 79% spotting mobile phone-using drivers around their school or home.

How mobile phones and driver distraction increase the risk of road traffic accident claims

A huge number of personal injury claims come down to driver distraction, from minor whiplash injury claims to serious injury claims with lifelong consequences. Driver distraction doesn’t simply involve using mobile phones – research from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has shown many other tasks, including fiddling with sat-navs, using hands-free kits, texting, eating, smoking, drinking and emailing, all increase the likelihood of motor vehicle accidents. Simply put, drivers are putting other road users and their passengers in considerable danger whenever they become distracted, no matter how momentarily.

Although legislation and sanctions go some way to alleviate this problem, it is likely that driver distraction and multitasking while driving will remain road safety concerns for many years to come. Cars are becoming mobile offices, with people fielding conference calls and sending emails while navigating traffic. Smartphones are now owned by the majority of mobile phone users, and the modern world keeps people constantly connected no matter where they are. Some employers are putting their employees in danger by insisting that they take phone calls behind the wheel. Reactions slow down when people are concentrating on even simple tasks, and this delay could be all it takes for people to become involved in a serious road traffic accident claim.

As many as 20% of all road traffic accident claims have driver distraction partially or entirely to blame, with using a mobile phone found to make drivers 30% slower than people driving while as drunk as legally permissible. The dangers are too serious to ignore.

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