Almost half of Britain’s motorists regularly flout the law by texting and driving, putting themselves and other road users at risk, according to figures released today by the RAC Foundation (27).
A survey of 2,000 Facebook users has alarmingly revealed that 45% of UK drivers use short message services (SMS) whilst driving. Only 11% of motorists turn off their phones or switch them to mute – leaving 89% of drivers open to the distractions caused by mobile phones.
The survey marks the first anniversary of the increase in penalties for using a hand-held phone at the wheel. Motorists now receive a £60 fine and 3 penalty points for using their mobile phone whilst driving, which includes texting and driving. It was discovered in the survey that the young and techno savvy were more likely to text and drive in congested parts of the country, and that the level of texting whilst driving differs throughout the UK. It is highest in London (53%), and Manchester (50%), and lowest in Aberdeen (31%), Edinburgh (36%), Bristol (36%) and Glasgow (38%).
The survey has identified five distinct groups of texting drivers on UK roads. They are:
* Multi-tasking multimedia maestros: Accounting for 21% of all motorists this group read and send texts in free flowing traffic. Dominated by techno savvy men aged 18-24, who regard the phone as a bionic add-on, this group consider texting to be an almost automatic reaction. The highest proportion of multi-tasking multimedia maestros can be found in Manchester (26%), London, Wales and Leeds (all 25%).
* Opportunistic optimisers: 19% of drivers read and/or send text messages when they are stuck in a jam. The delay itself may prompt people to text, for instance to let others know they are going to be late. Women are more likely than men to make up this group although membership decreases with age. This texting approach was by fat the most common in London (24%).
* Non-reactive realists: 44% of all motorists fall into this group. They will not text whilst driving, but will leave their phone audible. Phone alerts may distract the driver or encourage them to alter their driving plan (i.e. stop to read the text), which could create road safety problems, especially if they stop to view a text at an inappropriate location. Women are most likely to be non-reactive realists although membership to this group increases with age for both sexes. Drivers in Glasgow (51%), the West Midlands (51%) and Bristol (51%) are most likely to be in this category.
* Casual observers: This group accounts for a mere 5% of the driving population. These drivers read their texts in moving traffic, but would not consider responding or sending messages whilst driving. This activity is most common in Manchester (7%), Glasgow (7%) and Newcastle (6%).
* Trendsetting team players: 11% of drivers make up this final group of motorists. They responsibly switch off their phones or put them on mute to avoid distractions. Women are marginally more likely than men to fall into this category. Motorists in Aberdeen (19%), Edinburgh (16%) are particularly conscientious about these safety measures.
Elizabeth Dainton, Research Development Manager for the RAC Foundation, said:
“The survey clearly demonstrates that a large proportion of UK drivers are breaking the law by texting and driving. Many young people may not be aware that it is illegal to text and drive and how it places them and other road users in potential danger. Urgent action is needed to address this increasing problem, especially as the ‘Y’ generation, who have grown up with technology and computers, begin to take to the road.
“It is really hard to do two things at once. Using a mobile phone whilst driving means you are four times more likely to have a crash. If you have an accident whilst texting and driving, you can be prosecuted for not using due care and attention.
“Our message is clear – texting whilst driving is not safe. Motorists should switch off their mobile phones when driving or put them on silent mode. It takes away the temptation to read or reply to a text message whilst on the move. Messages can easily be picked up at the end of the journey or during a break. Master your phone – don’t be a slave to the SMS!”
1. Survey question and sample details
2002 Facebook Members (www.facebook.com) were surveyed over the period Wednesday 13th February to Friday 15th February 2008. The question asked and the options given were as follows;
Do you text while driving?
Yes – I read & send texts in moving traffic
Yes – I read texts in moving traffic
Yes – I read &/or send texts in still traffic
No – I don’t text, but I am aware when I get a text
No – I mute or turn off the phone when driving
The sample consisted of the following:
Not specified: 1
West Midlands: 100
3. The regional break down for the figures is in the table 1 below.
Table 1: Percentage of respondents in the regions who text whilst driving and the details of their texting activity
A=Text while driving (Overall figure. Further breakdown of activity provided in B-F)
B= Read and send texts in moving traffic
C= Read texts in moving traffic
D= Read and/or send texts in still traffic
E=Don’t text but hear phone
F= Mute or turn off phone