The effect of Mobile phones on driving

By Colin Rowe from Clockwise Briefings

Guest Article by Colin Rowe from Clockwise Briefings.

These mobile devices have changed the way we live our lives, which gives transport operators the means of communication with their drivers. It is extremely important for operators to have in place a mobile phone policy for drivers to follow.

In the early days of mobile phones there was no offence on the statute regarding using them while driving. Today the penalties are severe if caught using a handheld device and for a very good reason. Holding anything while driving other than the steering wheel compromises vehicle control. The law however doesn`t address the real problem.

Talking on a phone whether hands free or handheld when driving has now been proved to increase the risk of collision due to the diversion of attention. The human brain cannot focus on more than one thing at a time and trying to do this by switching between driving and talking on a phone is a distraction and causes cognitive impairment. The factors affecting the ability to drive include failure to observe the environment around the vehicle, such as road signs, wandering out of lane with the tendency to tailgate other vehicles; also driving and reacting more slowly.  

This was demonstrated at an RAC meeting I attended some time ago when a slalom course was laid out on a car park using traffic cones for drivers to navigate, firstly with the phone switched off and performance then compared while being called up on a hands-free phone and asked simple questions. The results were staggering. When talking on the phone cones were knocked over and above all in a simulated emergency stop overall stopping distances increased by up to 40%. 

Although the law permits the use of a handsfree phone while driving, in an accident involving third party serious injury or a fatality mobile phone usage will be analysed and if at the time of the incident/collision the phone was in use this will be considered during sentencing of the guilty party.

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