Distracted driving: Half of UK drivers still use their phone at the...

Distracted driving: Half of UK drivers still use their phone at the wheel

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New research has revealed that almost a half (49%) of UK drivers admit to being distracted behind the wheel of their cars because of mobile phones – despite tough new laws brought in a year ago to act as a deterrent.

The survey, carried out by used car supermarket, The Car People, asked 1,500 British drivers exactly what distracts them when behind the wheel and how it impacts on their driving.

It found that getting a phone call (31%), receiving a new message notification (21%) and using their phone for directions (20%) were the most common distractions across the general population, with changing music putting off 26% of 18-24-year-old drivers.

However, while Government figures show that 18-24-year olds are the most overrepresented in car crashes, the new research reveals that when it comes to mobile phones, it is now drivers aged 25-34 that are the most distracted, with more than three quarters (77%) admitting it is a factor.

Although 66% of 18-24-year olds admit to still being distracted by their mobile phones, the fact that this lower than 25-34 year olds suggests that the change in the law, which increased the penalty for using a mobile phone at the wheel to six points, could be having an impact with younger drivers who now risk having their licence revoked if they are caught using a phone at the wheel.

The worst offending age group (25-34) confessed that they are distracted at the wheel by taking phone calls (40%), using their phone for directions (38%), changing music (23%) and sending text messages (18%). A worrying proportion even said that they get distracted by taking photos (12%) and looking for selfie opportunities (8%) and almost three quarters of drivers in this age bracket (74%) believe being distracted by their phone has led to them driving dangerously.

As a result of being distracted by their mobile phone, 8% of 25-34-year olds said they had crashed their car, 15% had experienced a near-miss, 10% had gone through a red light and 22% had been beeped at.

The survey also revealed interesting results about what else causes drivers to be distracted behind the wheel. Passengers can be a huge distraction for people when they are driving, with almost a third (28%) admitting that they chat to others when the should be focusing on the road while, shockingly, 4% get distracted behind the wheel by being intimate with a partner.

Following the new research, The Car People challenged two drivers aged 25-34 to test their driving in a car simulator to see just how easily distracted they are and how dangerous this can be to themselves and others on the road.

Ryan Robbins, Senior Human Factors Researcher at TRL, who conducted the driving simulation said: “It is difficult to do two things at once well, but when one of those things is driving it is virtually impossible. Driving is a demanding task that can suddenly require all of a driver’s attention when a hazard arises. A driver who has been distracted will be slower to anticipate and react to hazards on the road, and that delay can prove fatal. Most of us drastically overestimate how well we can drive, even when we are concentrating fully, and the evidence is clear that when we are distracted our driving is considerably worse.

Jonathan Allbones, director at The Car People adds: “It’s a real concern to hear just how distracting mobile phones continue to be for UK drivers. We were surprised to find that drivers aged 25-34 are the most likely to be distracted by their mobile, though the fact that drivers in the youngest age group were less likely to be distracted is promising and suggests that the new rules around driving with a mobile could be having some impact. It’s important that older drivers don’t get complacent though as using a mobile while driving is both against the law and very dangerous.

“Challenging some millennials in a driving simulator was a great way to really put them to the test. It allowed us to monitor their concentration and speed limit on the road in a safe environment.”

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