Research has revealed that motorists who use their smartphone whilst driving are at a higher risk of being involved in an accident compared to drinking and driving.
The Institute of Advanced Motorists found that 8% of drivers admitted to using their smartphone for email and social networking use, the equivalent of 3.5 million licence holders.
Younger drivers aged between 17-24 years olds who are already placed in a high risk category for accidents, are the main age group who are using their phones whilst driving meaning an even higher risk of accidents.
IAM and the Transport Research Lab (TRL) used a car simulator to examine the effects of young drivers using their phones. The results from the experiment showed that driving is badly affected by smartphone use. Sending and receiving a message using a social networking site found that reaction times slowed by 38%, drivers often missed important events of their journey, they were not capable of holding a central lane position and they were unable to respond quickly to the car in front changing speed.
Comparing the results to previous studies centred on driving distractions, using a smartphone slowed reaction times by 37.6% whereas drinking and driving slowed reaction times by 15%, highlighting that a smartphone is more of a danger.
The Government have been called upon to address the ongoing issue of younger drivers using their smartphone whilst driving. Drink driving and the importance of wearing a seatbelt has been heavily publicised by road safety campaigns which has changed the way people decide to drive. It is hoped the same campaigns will be introduced to stop younger drivers from using their smartphones.
IAM chief executive Simon Best said: “This research shows how incredibly dangerous using smartphones while driving is, yet unbelievably it is a relatively common practice.
“If you’re taking your hand off the wheel to use the phone, reading the phone display and thinking about your messages, then you’re simply not concentrating on driving.
“It’s antisocial networking and it’s more dangerous than drink driving and it must become just as socially unacceptable.”
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By Amanda Bainbridge