Thursday, 01 March 2012

3.5 million licence holders like this From time to time I have a stab at the habit of using a mobile phone while driving, because it combines two themes powerfully relevant to neighbourhood life - community safety, and respect. The logic is stark: if someone uses their phone while driving past me, I get an unequivocal message that they think their communication is more important than my safety, or that of the child I might happen to be walking with. Straightforward, brazen disrespect. Some time ago, walking round my area and watching carefully, I calculated that in 1 out of every 20 cars that passed me, the driver was using their phone. That was just for voice communication. OK, you wanna get into email and social networking? Research – proper research - claims that eight per cent of drivers (and 24 per cent of 17-24 year old drivers) admit to using a smartphone for emails and social networking while driving. (For sources, see the IAM press release). Surprise surprise, follow up research by the Transport Research Laboratory shows that accessing sites such as Facebook while behind the wheel had a more dramatic impact on reaction times and driving awareness than texting, alcohol and cannabis. ‘Participants who were sending and receiving Facebook messages saw their reaction times slowed by 38% and often missed key events. They were also unable to maintain a central lane position or respond quickly to a car in front changing speed.’ Somewhat forlornly, the report hopes that ‘it may be possible to develop a smartphone application which restricts access to some functions of the phone while driving.’

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