Driving advice How dangerous is texting and driving?


In 2007, using a handheld mobile phone behind the wheel became an endorsable offence. This meant that anyone caught chatting, texting or checking their email while driving could be given penalty points and a £60 fine. 

Immediately after the new rules were introduced, there was a drop in the number of offences detected. But in 2008 the figures began to rise again, and the government is now considering raising the fine from £60 to £90.

Watch our mobile phone research video


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Video transcript

We've all been stuck behind someone driving erratically, swerving out of their lane or inexplicably slowing down. I can guarantee that every time it happens to me, when I get to see the driver they've either got their phone stuck to their ear or they've got their head down texting, but just how dangerous is it driving and using a mobile phone?

And is it worse than drink driving? We went to the Transport Research Laboratory in Berkshire to find out. We did four different tests in a simulator they were: talking hands free, talking on a hand held mobile, texting, and driving at the legal alcohol limit. Before we started the test We did a control run without distractions.

The simulator had three cameras watching the driver to see how much time they spent looking at the road and how quick their reactions were. The cameras were hooked up to a control room where TRL's experts recorded each drivers performance. So, let's see how we got on. It was significantly harder to drive, definitely.

Very noticeably much harder to drive and keep on doing everything without getting distracted. I found it really difficult because I was also trying to concentrate on the road and there were hazards such as cars pulling out, braking suddenly also had to try to keep the car in the center of the lane when going around corners and generally it was just a lot to concentrate on I did manage to stay on the road.

Even so, answering questions and generally conversing on the phone it was a lot more difficult than simply driving. I tried to do the headlight thing when I saw the red bar and trying to change lanes on motorway as well, doing all that and talk on the phone was really quite difficult. Difficult to maintain concentration on the road while speaking into the phone and getting accurate answers as well.

I found that difficult, but Towards the end I felt myself speeding up as well without realizing while I was there, having the conversation on the phone. I felt like I certainly had to concentrate more than when I had to solve those mental arithmetic problems that I had while talking on the hands free, but I'm sure it hasn't impaired my reaction times

Really, it's much more difficult to go round corners and spot Red bars that meant you were supposed to flash your headlights so much slower doing both of those things. One of the bends that we were supposed to take constant 40 miles an hour. I've just spun the car out, and crashed, which, even after a considerable amount of alcohol. I didn't do. I definitely found it more difficult when I was texting, I'd swerve out in the lanes a couple of times and notice my speed increase, actually, as well.

and it was really, really difficult. Even trying to text one handed. It was really difficult trying to keep an eye on the road as well. You just I just wasn't paying any attention to the road at all while I was texting. When driving at the legal alcohol limit we experience an 11% reduction in attention.

While using a mobile, handheld and hands free. This raised to a nineteen percent drop in attention when testing When texting this raised to a staggering seventy nine percent drop in attention. This was the only test when somebody actually crashed the car. Road deaths were up by nearly three percent in 2011. It's the first they've gone up in nearly a decade.

One reason for this could be the growing number of people using mobile phones while driving. snapshot research shows just how dangerous it can be to drive while using a hand held mobile phone. We think that tougher action needs to be taken by the police and the government. Have your say by clicking the link below

How dangerous is using a mobile phone while driving?

It’s frustrating to encounter someone driving very badly, and then discover that they’re chatting away on their phone or texting. But just how dangerous is it to use a phone while driving?

The latest official statistics (for 2010) show that, out of a total of 1,850 road deaths, careless driving contributed to 370 of them. But no recent statistics for phone-specific accidents are available from the government, so we did our own testing.

Our findings

To find out how different types of phone use can affect concentration, we sent three researchers to a research centre in Berkshire, where simulators gauged their driving ability and reaction times in various states of distraction. They drove while sober (as a control), and while at the legal alcohol limit. On a separate day they drove while using their phone to chat and text.

For all three researchers, the average time taken to react to hazards when sober and not distracted was just over a second. After drinking, their reaction time rose to 1.2 seconds, and it was fractionally higher still when speaking sober on a hands-free kit or handheld mobile phone. So even though it’s legal to use a hands-free kit while driving, our researchers found it just as distracting as using a handheld mobile.

Texting behind the wheel is highly dangerous

Texting is worst

When attempting to write a text message, the average reaction time jumped to two seconds. In all but one of the tests, texting diminished our drivers’ abilities more than drinking, or any other type of phone use we tested in our research. They got closer to the car in front, by an average of around 12 metres, suggesting those who text and drive are more likely to tailgate. Their tendency to drift between lanes also increased. One of our researchers even ‘crashed’ while attempting to send a text message.

See how we measured up in our tests

Mobile phone tips

  • Never use a handheld phone while driving - it's dangerous and illegal.
  • Hands-free phone use is legal, but can be as distracting as using a handheld phone.
  • Academic evidence suggests education is more effective than paying a fine.

Other sections in this guide

  1. Overview
  2. How dangerous is texting and driving?
  3. Fining and educating drivers