The increase in the number of people using their mobile phone whilst driving is a growing concern across the UK, with the distraction it provides causing a surge in the number of accidents in recent years.
It has resulted in the government imposing stricter punishments on drivers caught breaking the rules. From March 2017, motorists found using their mobile while driving will receive six points on their licence and a £200 fine. Anyone caught using their phone twice while behind the wheel will receive 12 points, be disqualified from driving and receive a fine of up to £1,000.
Any accident can have serious consequences, so this crackdown on such a major contributing factor has been welcomed by many.
The Rise in Mobile Use While Driving
A recent RAC Report on Motoring revealed a significant increase in the number of drivers admitting to using a mobile phone at the wheel. According to the report, between 2014 and 2016 this figure has risen from 8% to 31%. Regardless of the reason, any distraction behind the wheel can lead to accidents, severe injuries and car write offs.
As smartphones have increased in popularity and functionality over the last decade, so has the number of drivers using their phone behind the wheel. While it used to be just sending a text or making a phone call that would lead to unsafe driving, nowadays taking a photo, sending an email and posting on social media can all be factors.
14% of drivers admitted to taking photos when behind the wheel, while 20% said they checked social media. Worryingly, there is also a change in attitudes towards mobile phone use when driving, with 14% believing it acceptable to take a call, up from 7% in 2014. The new, stricter stance is intended to cut down on usage and make drivers rethink their opinions and the consequences of their actions.
Mobile Use Resulting in Serious Accidents
Between 2013 and 2015, on average 24 people per year were killed in road traffic collisions where the driver of the vehicle was using their mobile phone, according to reports from the Department for Transport, compared to 17 people in 2012.
These reports don’t go into detail about whether the fatality was the driver themselves, their passenger, another driver or pedestrian. Importantly they highlight the severity of using your mobile phone when driving and how it can lead to a car write off and much worse.
The police believe that the true number of incidents caused by mobile phone use could be much higher than recorded. Phones are only seized following incidents that result in death or life-changing injury, meaning the link with mobile phone use is not investigated in less serious incidents. This could also mean that there is a higher number of car write offs than officially recorded due to phone use.
Snapchatting Behind the Wheel
The rising use of Snapchat has also led to a number of young drivers using their phone to take selfies behind the wheel, snaps of the speedometer and using the app’s own speed filter as a way of showing off about how fast they’re driving. These are all a serious cause for concern, particularly when coupled with the fact that these may be inexperienced drivers.
There are no figures that determine the exact number of accidents or write offs due to drivers using Snapchat. However, there have been many news stories of drivers crashing while using Snapchat (including DJ Khaled allegedly writing off his Ferrari while doing so). With just over 10% of app users admitting to using Snapchat when driving (16 million users of the 150 million downloads), the app introduced a new ‘I won’t snap and drive’ filter in an attempt to prevent more accidents, though how successful this proved remains to be seen.
Protect Yourself Against Irresponsible Driving
Firstly, don’t use your mobile while driving, ever. If the temptation of having it in your pocket could prove too much, put it in your glove box. You can also take steps to protect yourself and your passengers in the event of a collision, such as choosing a car with a high Euro NCAP safety rating.
In terms of protecting your car, ALA GAP Insurance can protect against the financial loss that occurs if your car is written off in an accident. Only the value of your vehicle at the time will be paid by your comprehensive insurer, but with car GAP insurance you receive the shortfall between what you originally paid for your car and the settlement paid by your insurer.