Keeping Your Hands on the Wheel: Drivers and their Mobile Phones

I was surprised to read earlier this month that there has been a significant increase in the use of handheld mobile phones while driving on British roads. You would have thought by now that everybody, especially those of us involved in haulage work, would be aware of the dangers of taking your hands and your eyes off the wheel.

The RAC has released some shocking figures in its annual Report on Motoring.

The Stats

• In 2014, 8% of people admitted to using a mobile phone while behind the wheel; in 2016 that number has risen to 31%.
• 9% of people in 2014 said that they had sent emails, texts or used social media while driving; this has increased to 19% in 2016.
• 14% of those surveyed in 2016 admitted to taking videos or photos with their phones while driving.

Call to Action

The RAC wants the government to crack down on this relaxed attitude towards driving with handheld distractions. After all, the people in this survey have happily admitted to breaking the law! It suggests that they launch a national awareness campaign to bring this element of road safety back to into the public consciousness, as well as improved enforcement of the laws already in place.

They have also suggested increasing the penalties given out to drivers who are found to be using handheld mobile phones. The current penalty is a minimum fine of £100 and three penalty points on your licence. The RAC calls for this fine to go up to £150 and four penalty points, or six points for HGV drivers. This doubling of the points for HGV drivers reflects the fact that larger vehicles have the ability to cause more severe accidents; those involved in haulage work should be aware of the risks of dangerous driving as soon as they sit in the cab.

Hands-Free Alternatives

The Road Haulage Association (RHA) has commented that it condemns the use of handheld mobile devices, but recognises the importance of communication in the haulage industry. It recommends the use of hands-free phones that enable haulage workers to make business calls without jeopardising their safety or the safety of other road users.

Richard Burnett, chief executive of the RHA, commented: “Hands-free mobiles are used in lorries as a business tool, bringing economic and environmental benefits, including reducing the mileage travelled by vehicles through improving efficiency […] There is abundant evidence that use of hand-held mobiles – as opposed to hands-free devices – is a major cause of road accidents. The two issues should not be confused. The use of hand-held mobiles is the safety risk that has to be addressed, through much stronger deterrents.”

I for one sincerely hope that the next couple of years see a reverse in the statistics above that caught me so much by surprise. Sharing a cat meme or filming a Vine from the driver’s seat should never be seen as more important than keeping your hands firmly on the steering wheel and your eyes safely on the road, no matter the size of the vehicle you’re driving.

Norman Dulwich is a Correspondent for Haulage Exchange, the leading online trade network for the road transport industry. Connecting logistics professionals across the UK and Europe through their website, Haulage Exchange provides services for matching haulage work with available drivers. Over 4,000 transport exchange businesses are networked together through their website, trading jobs and capacity in a safe 'wholesale' environment.

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Author: Desiree Michels