Using a hands-free mobile whilst driving can be more dangerous than drink driving
27th February 2009
- 460 deaths on the road in 2007 as a result of drink driving
- Small majority of motorists would support a ban on all mobile phone use behind the wheel
- 30 per cent of drivers admit to reading text messages whilst driving
A study by leading car insurer Direct line, carried out by Transport Research Laboratory (TRL), has revealed that driver reaction times, such as the time taken to apply the brakes or steer away from danger, are 30 per cent slower when driving whilst using a hands-free mobile phone than when driving whilst over the legal alcohol limit.1
When travelling at 70 miles per hour (mph) the affect on reaction time caused by the hands-free mobile conversation means that the vehicle travels 26ft further than one driven under ‘normal conditions’2 before the driver is fully engaged and able to take the appropriate action. In contrast, someone driving slightly over the legal alcohol limit would travel just 13ft further than someone driving under normal conditions before they responded – half the distance of the hands-free mobile using driver. The extra distance travelled by the car before the driver responds due to not fully concentrating on the road ahead is illustrated in the diagram below.
Previous research, highlighted by TRL in the study, has shown that any conversation taking place in the vehicle is a major distraction, with drivers’ concentration levels reduced for an average of ten minutes after the conversation has ended3.
Despite the delayed reaction times, it is not illegal to have a hands free mobile conversation whilst driving. Consequently it was viewed as a ‘safe activity’ by the research subjects, who gave it a ‘danger rating’ of just 3/10, way below other ‘every day’ distractions such as ‘eating sweets’ (5/10), or ‘smoking a cigarette’ (5/10) whilst driving. Direct Line has found that 22 per cent of drivers have made calls on a hands-free mobile whilst behind the wheel4 in the last year.
Maggie Game, Head of Car Insurance at Direct Line, comments: ”The news that using a hands-free mobile while driving could be more dangerous than drink driving will understandably come as a shock to many drivers who currently use a hands-free device to comply with the law. Given that drink driving was responsible for 14,480 casualties, including 460 deaths, on the road in 20075, the potential for casualties from mobile phone use is frightening.”
Despite an apparent lack of awareness of the full dangers of driving while using a hands-free phone, 52 per cent of those asked would be in support of an outright ban on using mobile phones while driving.
Maggie Game continues: “Hopefully now that drivers are aware of the dangers inherent in the use of hands-free mobile phones whilst driving, the act of having any but the most crucial conversations will take on the status of a social taboo in much the same way that drink driving has. Whilst serious injuries and death on the road as a result of drink driving are decreasing, the potential for mobile phones to be a contributory factor in serious road accidents can only increase.”
Other findings from Direct line include:
- Nearly ten million drivers6 (30 per cent) admit to reading text messages when driving
- The younger generation (18 to 34 year olds) is the one most likely to use a mobile whilst driving7.
For further information please contact
Direct Line Press Office
020 8313 5471
Notes to Editors:
1 `Additional Data and Statistics, RBS Insurance report – Driver Attitudes to Distraction and other Motorists’ behaviour: a Focus Group and Observational Study’ was produced by Transport Research Laboratory (TRL Limited) for Direct Line, June 2008..
2 ‘Under normal conditions’ refers to driving without using a mobile phone, but could include distractions such as listening to a car radio.
3 Redelmeier & Tibshirani, 1997. Association between cellular-telephone calls and motor vehicle collisions. The New England Journal of Medicine, 336(7), 453-458.).
4 Opinium Research carried out an online poll of 2,005 British adults between 22nd and 25th July on behalf of Direct Line. Results have been weighted to nationally representative criteria.
5 Road Casualties Great Britain: 2007 - Annual Report from the Department For Transport
6 30 per cent of the UKs 33,300,000 motorists in the UK (source: RAC Report on Motoring 2007) is 9,990,000 motorists
7 Nearly a third (30 per cent) admitted to writing a text message compared to only 17 per cent of those aged 35 to 54 whilst 28 per cent have made a call without using a hands-free device.
Started in 1985, Direct Line became the first UK insurance company to use the telephone as its main channel of communication. It provides car, home, travel and pet insurance cover direct to customers by phone or on-line.
Direct Line is part of RBS Insurance, the second largest general insurer in the UK and is wholly owned by the Royal Bank of Scotland Group. Customers can find out more about Direct Line products or get a quote by calling 0845 246 3761 or visiting www.directline.com
Direct Line Insurance plc is authorised and regulated by the Financial Services Authority. Registered office: 3 Edridge Road, Croydon, Surrey CR9 1AG. Registered in England and Wales no. 01810801. The Financial Services Authority's Register can be accessed through http://www.fsa.gov.uk/register
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