With ownership of smart phones on the rise, there’s more temptation than ever to respond to a text or update your Facebook profile on the move. So Which? decided to find out just how distracting it is to text while driving.
We asked three researchers, aged in their 20s, 30s and 40s, to drive in a simulator under five different conditions: without distraction, talking hands-free on a mobile, taking on a handheld phone, texting, and driving at the legal alcohol limit – as this is also known to impair reaction times.
Watch our driving simulator research video
Texting causes huge drop in attention
The results were alarming: the researchers experienced an 11% level of impairment while at the legal alcohol limit, a 19% reduction in attention to the road while using a handheld and hands-free mobile, and a staggering 79% reduction in attention while texting. One of our researchers even veered off the virtual road and crashed while sending a text.
To understand what’s being done to reduce the number of phone-related accidents on real roads, Which? contacted each of the UK’s 52 police authorities.
We asked each to tell us how many mobile phone use offences it had recorded in the past five years and how the offences had been resolved.
We found that most offenders had paid a fixed penalty fine, and that only 11 of the 52 police forces offered any kind of awareness course for those caught using a handheld mobile.
Tougher action should be taken
Which? believes that tougher action needs to be taken by the police and government, and we have shared our findings with the Department for Transport and the charity Brake, which campaigns on road safety issues.
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