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Reaction times for phone calls and texters worse than cannabis and alcohol users: calls for one year ban penalties

Texting at the wheel is more dangerous than drink driving, research has found, leading campaigners to call for harsher penalties for using mobile phones at the wheel.

A study by the Transport Research Laboratory (TRL) has found that a driver has a 46 per cent slower reaction time when making a hand-held call, and only slightly better results when texting at 37 per cent slower. Hands free calls were not a complete solution, with 26 per cent slower reactions.

This compares with a 13 per cent slower reaction for someone at the drink drive limit of 80mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood.

Cannabis users saw a 21 per cent drop in reaction times.

Robert Goodwill, the road safety minister, told the Sunday Times: “I will see if we need to change the penalties.”

Hugh Bladon, treasurer of the Alliance of British Drivers, said texting at the wheel was “such a stupid thing to do”.

Nick Freeman, the lawyer nicknamed Mr Loophole for winning acquittals on motoring offences, said: “Impose a one-year ban and you’ll get rid of it ... can you imagine being off the road for a year, just because you sent a quick text? Forget it.”

Half of drivers aged 18 to 24 admitted to texting while driving, according to an RAC poll, while another study by the

TRL found the use of mobile phones by drivers in Surrey had more than doubled from 2009 to 2.6% in 2012.

After an unpromising start, having to be bribed by her parents to learn to ride without stabilisers, Sarah became rather keener on cycling in her university years, and was eventually persuaded to upgrade to proper road cycling by the prospect of a shiny red Italian bike, which she promptly destroyed by trapping a pair of knickers in the rear derailleur. Sarah writes about about cycling every weekend on road.cc.

29 comments

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Username [181 posts] 2 years ago
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There is zero enforcement taking place; what do you expect?

All the safety campaigns and meaningful articles in the world will achieve nothing unless drivers are fearful of being caught.

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gazza_d [464 posts] 2 years ago
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Should also seize and crush car and phone.

AND make driver take extended re-test at end of ban.

This crap is dangerous and needs to be stopped. Harsh measures are the only way.

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gazza_d [464 posts] 2 years ago
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Should also seize and crush car and phone.

AND make driver take extended re-test at end of ban.

This crap is dangerous and needs to be stopped. Harsh measures are the only way.

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crazy-legs [794 posts] 2 years ago
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Those of you who commute through towns/cities on a bike. Just slow down a fraction as you filter up the outside of slow-moving or stationary traffic and have a glance in the drivers window at each car you pass. By my reckoning, its can be as high as 20% of drivers passing the time in traffic jams by texting, reading Twitter etc.

And you know how occasionally someone will be a bit slow moving off from the lights? Bet you anything they've been texting or reading a text/Twitter etc. You can even see it with drivers coming towards you, those with the tell tale quick glances downwards.

Plain clothes police on bikes or motorbikes in congested areas. See a motorist on the phone, pull them over, get their details then smash the phone to pieces in front of them. SIM, SD card, the whole lot. If that same motorist is caught again within a month, then its time to confiscate the car.

I can't believe the police don't enforce it properly, the fines would pay off the UK debt within a year!

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kie7077 [879 posts] 2 years ago
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gazza_d wrote:

Should also seize and crush car and phone.

AND make driver take extended re-test at end of ban.

This crap is dangerous and needs to be stopped. Harsh measures are the only way.

+1 but Sell car, not crush car, half of what makes them environmentally unfriendly is the manufacture of the car.

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FluffyKittenofT... [1234 posts] 2 years ago
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The really depressing thing is, that while drunk-driving seems to be one of the very few battles that have actually been won, in terms of it becoming socially unacceptable, we've now effectively got the same problem all over again.

Phone-use-while-driving is now as widely tolerated as driving under the influence once was, probably more so.

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gazza_d [464 posts] 2 years ago
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crazy-legs wrote:

Those of you who commute through towns/cities on a bike. Just slow down a fraction as you filter up the outside of slow-moving or stationary traffic and have a glance in the drivers window at each car you pass. By my reckoning, its can be as high as 20% of drivers passing the time in traffic jams by texting, reading Twitter etc.

And you know how occasionally someone will be a bit slow moving off from the lights? Bet you anything they've been texting or reading a text/Twitter etc. You can even see it with drivers coming towards you, those with the tell tale quick glances downwards.

Plain clothes police on bikes or motorbikes in congested areas. See a motorist on the phone, pull them over, get their details then smash the phone to pieces in front of them. SIM, SD card, the whole lot. If that same motorist is caught again within a month, then its time to confiscate the car.

I can't believe the police don't enforce it properly, the fines would pay off the UK debt within a year!

+1

I see this all the time. But it would be part of the war on the beleaguered put upon driver though and yet more "stealth taxes"

It's socialised and normalised beyond a joke, yet bad driving like phone use is one of the largest anti-social and dangerous menaces in the UK.

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Garrrrrr [7 posts] 2 years ago
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Get rid of the lot of these idiots by signing & sharing this: http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/65953

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kie7077 [879 posts] 2 years ago
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Garrrrrr wrote:

Get rid of the lot of these idiots by signing & sharing this: http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/65953

Whilst I agree with bans for text-driving etc, I can not agree with police dishing out instant justice like Judge Dredd in 2000AD, full due-process is necessary, police are already too powerful.

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Garrrrrr [7 posts] 2 years ago
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Full due process allows them to spend more months on the road doing the same stupid stuff whilst waiting for their court appearance. If they're clearly in the wrong and it's recorded on police cameras then yes - get them off the road there and then. No excuses and no loopholes.

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oldstrath [637 posts] 2 years ago
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kie7077 wrote:
Garrrrrr wrote:

Get rid of the lot of these idiots by signing & sharing this: http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/65953

Whilst I agree with bans for text-driving etc, I can not agree with police dishing out instant justice like Judge Dredd in 2000AD, full due-process is necessary, police are already too powerful.

Thus allowing characters like Mr Loophole the chance to slime and lie to get their clients off. Just ban them, keep the slimeballs out of it.

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Richie Watkin [12 posts] 2 years ago
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In Ireland it is now law! €1000 fine for any one caught using a Phone while driving.

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crazy-legs [794 posts] 2 years ago
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[cynic mode...]
Mind you, the headline is a bit worrying. "Roads Minister to *look into* harsher penalties"

So after a year long review and several millions £ of taxpayers money, the report will say "yes, we *looked into it* as promised and we decided it would all be terribly inconvenient to the hardworking honest motorist as well as electoral suicide for us so carry on as before"

[/cynic mode]

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skippy [409 posts] 2 years ago
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Waiting on the First Gardai officer to have the COURAGE to enforce the LAW !

Will be even more pleased when the first miscreant gets to see the inside of a CELL for the second offence !

Police/Gardai are responsible for Enforcement of Road Rules , NOT for supervising the clean up AFTER another Traffic Violence Incident !

ADD your " Like " to :
https://www.facebook.com/groups/629579300452611/

Lets see if people can change their SPOTS !

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freespirit1 [242 posts] 2 years ago
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Personally I would like to see mobile phone use outlawed for ALL road users.

When I am out on the road my phone has a power button and I set it to off, why can't others do the same?

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drfabulous0 [409 posts] 2 years ago
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freespirit1 wrote:

Personally I would like to see mobile phone use outlawed for ALL road users.

When I am out on the road my phone has a power button and I set it to off, why can't others do the same?

Because it does other things, like Strava and navigation. If it rings and I want to answer I can easily pull over. Furthermore when on foot it doesn't really present much danger to anyone else.

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freespirit1 [242 posts] 2 years ago
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Did I mention pedestrians?

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giff77 [1256 posts] 2 years ago
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freespirit1 wrote:

Did I mention pedestrians?

You did say ALL road users though. Here's the governments take on it from the Highway Code.

"2. Introduction

The most vulnerable road users are pedestrians, particularly children, older or disabled people, cyclists, motorcyclists and horse riders. It is important that all road users are aware of The Highway Code and are considerate towards each other. This applies to pedestrians as much as to drivers and riders."

Not quite sure how enforcing a mobile phone ban on ALL road users could be achieved unless you are in favour of a police state.

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freespirit1 [242 posts] 2 years ago
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Ok point taken. A bit nit picky but to clarify I meant ALL users of wheeled transport.

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simon.thornton [44 posts] 2 years ago
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Sloppy. Very Sloppy.
Reduced reaction time is the least of the worries about driving with a skin full.
A habitual drunk might use this select comparison to reduce their feeling of guilt.
But looking at this positively, we can save some time and money here.
Keeping a careful eye out for organisations with too much time on their hands is the safest
way to identify where the next round of 15% budget cuts should be applied ..

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FluffyKittenofT... [1234 posts] 2 years ago
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simon.thornton wrote:

Sloppy. Very Sloppy.
Reduced reaction time is the least of the worries about driving with a skin full.
A habitual drunk might use this select comparison to reduce their feeling of guilt.
But looking at this positively, we can save some time and money here.
Keeping a careful eye out for organisations with too much time on their hands is the safest
way to identify where the next round of 15% budget cuts should be applied ..

I don't quite understand your point. The limit for drinking and driving is set a lot lower than 'a skinful' and reduced reaction times are a big reason why it is where it is. Its not just the totally-out-of-it drunks we don't want driving.

Surely all the study is saying is that compared with those driving 'under the influence' and slightly over the limit (who are legally prohibited from driving because they aren't safe), texting has a very bad effect.

Though I'm thinking you do highlight a possible reason why the state has been able to come down fairly hard on drink driving. That is, its precisely _because_ at the most extreme end its usually obvious to everyone, even the run-of-the-mill bad-driver, that there's a problem, and that those totally-pissed drivers are a menace to everyone.

What happened, I guess, is that they started from there and then progressively moved the limit down.

Perhaps if alcohol only ever had the less-obvious-but-still-deadly influence it has at the lower end of the limit it would never have been possible to crack down on it as we have. Which might indicate its going to be harder to deal with phone-use.

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OldRidgeback [2632 posts] 2 years ago
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Fluffy - thing is that drink driving laws were introduced at the end of the 1970s for a reason. Back then, there were six times as many deaths on UK roads caused by drink driving than now. There were no mobile phones.

Since that time, drink driving has progressively been regarded as being anti-social behaviour. But mobile phones are more recent, and the research showing how dangerous they are when used at the wheel even more so. And texting/internet use at the wheel is even more recent than that.

People simply haven't had time to realise how dangerous mobile phone use or texting at the wheel are or for that anti social behaviour element to be appreciated.

A good first step would be for phone use or texting at the wheel to receive parity with drink driving, resulting in an automatic 12 month driving ban.

I've seen quite a few numpties cycling while gabbling away on the mobile, or even sending a text.

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Kapelmuur [335 posts] 2 years ago
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I worked as a lollipop man for a while and counted 10% of the drivers who passed me were on their mobiles.

I asked the police liaison officer to stand with me and take action, he replied that the police were interested in mobile phone use only if there had been an accident involving injury or death.

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racyrich [258 posts] 2 years ago
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I suspect half the reason mobile use is not excoriated in the way drink-driving is/was is that a disproportionate number of offenders are women. The same women who wailed at the carnage inflicted by drunken men but cannot conceive that nice cuddly mothers could be as dangerous.

Edit. In fact to take the theory further, the problem is precisely that there isn't a convenient minority to name and blame for mobile use. It's not just any of the usual suspect scapegoat groups - young drivers, old drivers, van drivers, BMW/Audi drivers. Everyone's equally as guilty (present company excepted naturally) hence no clamour to do anything about it, until a nearest and dearest is extinguished. And the fervent converts do little to elicit any sympathy anyway.

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Flying Scot [918 posts] 2 years ago
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OK, it only takes a seconds lapse to cause a death, but if your out your nut the whole journey is potentially lethal, whereas the phone user is only a few seconds distracted. Causing injury or bad driving whilst doing so should be treated the same way as drink driving, though reading a text at the traffic lights shouldn't ( in my opinion)

While we are at it:

Smoking when driving
Women (sorry but never seen a man do it) who talk gesticulating and looking at their passenger.
People who hang over the wheel as if slumped at a school desk
Those who hold the wheel on the left with their right hand.
Sat nav in the middle of the windscreen below the 'mirror'

In my book, they aren't in control or ready to react either.

...5 year re-tests, driving isn't about propelling you vehicle towards a destination.

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goggy [153 posts] 2 years ago
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Hmm... I keep my phone on. To not do so would be as dangerous as cycling on a high wire above a river full of hungry crocodiles while listening to music and texting. I would come home and find my wife had binned the bikes and fed the dinner to the dog.

But ... I pull over, get off the road, and then call back. I don't cycle while talking - I honestly would find it tricky.

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cyclingDMlondon [494 posts] 2 years ago
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crazy-legs wrote:

Those of you who commute through towns/cities on a bike. Just slow down a fraction as you filter up the outside of slow-moving or stationary traffic and have a glance in the drivers window at each car you pass. By my reckoning, its can be as high as 20% of drivers passing the time in traffic jams by texting, reading Twitter etc.

In Central London, it's about 80%-95%.

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Matt eaton [742 posts] 2 years ago
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cyclingDMlondon wrote:
crazy-legs wrote:

Those of you who commute through towns/cities on a bike. Just slow down a fraction as you filter up the outside of slow-moving or stationary traffic and have a glance in the drivers window at each car you pass. By my reckoning, its can be as high as 20% of drivers passing the time in traffic jams by texting, reading Twitter etc.

In Central London, it's about 80%-95%.

And that's exactly the problem. Because such a high proportion of drivers do it it will be very difficult to gain widespread support for stiffer sentances. I wish our lawmakers had the balls to do what is in the public interest rather than pandering to popular opinion all the time.

That said, making comparisons to drink-driving is a bit misleading. I think someone pointed this out already but if you choose to send a text during a journey you are able to select a moment where you feel it is safest to do so. If you drive drunk you are drunk for the whole journey. That doesn't make any of it OK but it is a bit of a case of apples and oranges.

Last point - what's all this talk of drink-driving being socially unaceptable? I'm yet to see any evidence of this.

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K Stand Ken [59 posts] 2 years ago
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Flying Scot wrote:

whereas the phone user is only a few seconds distracted.

Scotty; Aren't you assuming that someone using their phone will only do it once on a journey?
Many years ago when I was very,very irresponsible I made a 24 minute business call while driving. It was in the early days of mobile phones - the phone and its attached battery was the size of a family bible.
You may have also heard of the Australian bi*ch who, while she was phoning ran over (and subsequently blamed) a cyclist . The Police were able to prove she had either made or received (I think it was 24) calls in the previous 30 minutes.