Illegal texting at wheel doubles in past year, says new research from Halfords

Nine in ten survey respondents highlight phone danger... but half have been on phone while driving in past year

by Simon_MacMichael   February 11, 2013  

driving using mobile phone

More than twice as many drivers now admit illegally texting at the wheel compared to this time last year according to a new survey from Halfords, accompanied by a fourfold increase in those who use their handsets to check social networking sites.

A Onepoll online survey of 2,083 drivers conducted on behalf of the retailer found that while almost nine in ten respondents said that using a handheld mobile while driving created a danger to the motorist and other road users, many were themselves guilty of that behaviour.

Respondents also ranked illegally using a mobile without Bluetooth or a hands-free kit as their third most hated behaviour among other drivers, with inconsiderate driving and drink driving ranked higher.

According to Halfords, key findings include:

35 per cent of drivers admit reading text messages, which rises to 57% of under-25s

19 per cent use their smartphone to access social networking sites or the internet while driving

48 per cent of drivers confess to having used a handheld mobile to make a phone call at least once in the past year – 36% do so once a week or more

53 per cent say that they will take their eyes off the road to look at who is calling from them

45 per cent admit they do so to see who has sent them a text message

24 per cent say drivers should be allowed to use handheld phones while at traffic lights or in non-moving traffic.

The admitted behaviour of such significant proportions of motorists contrasts sharply with respondents’ views about how people illegally using phones while driving should be dealt with.

Three quarters of them say that existing laws, which provide for a £60 fixed penalty notice and three penalty points, is not being adequately enforced, and 33 per cent say that the police should clamp down on those who break it.

Unsuccessfully challenging a fine in court can lead to heavier penalties of up to £1,000, and in the event of a collision, use of a handheld mobile can form the basis of charges such as dangerous driving.

Halfords added that police initiatives against the use of mobiles while driving are currently under way in areas including Scotland, Wales, Lancashire, Devon and Cornwall, and Humberside.

Dave Poulter, In-Car Technology Manager at Halfords, commented: “These findings paint a disturbing picture of what is happening on the UK’s roads and the emerging trend towards using mobile phones to link with social media while driving is extremely worrying.

“There are a number of ways of staying connected legally – from bespoke hands-free kits, that read out text messages for you, to car stereos that incorporate hands-free capabilities as well enabling maps and traffic services to be accessed from mobiles safely.”

He went on: “This dangerous behaviour is simply unnecessary and easily avoided through the smart use of hands-free technology. If any drivers are uncertain about how to comply with the law and the options available, our in-store specialists can offer professional advice as well as fitting.”

In January last year, insurer Swiftcover said that responses to a Freedom of Information request from 41 of the 43 police forces in England showed that the number of motorists fined for using a mobile while driving had jumped by a third to 171,000 over the previous use – still a tiny proportion, given the levels of self-reported use.

At the time, then Road Safety Minister Mike Penning said: “To make sure drivers take this seriously we are increasing the fine for the offence from £60 to between £80 and £100 next year.”

So far, no change has been made to the law.

While Halfords’ research is based on an online survey, insurer LV= last year carried out an observational study in Cardiff, Edinburgh, London and Manchester to gauge mobile phone use in a live situation.

Researchers were placed close to pedestrian crossings and junctions, undertaking their observations during six-hour shifts on separate weekdays.

LV= said that drivers using handheld mobiles engaged in ”reckless driving, speeding, and sudden braking,” one third of them did not stop at pedestrian crossings (just 10 per cent of those not using mobiles failed to do so) and that they were twice as likely to demonstrate erratic driving behaviour.

When the LV= survey findings were published in December, Managing Director for Car Insurance John O’Roarke said: "It's been nearly ten years since legislation banning the use of hand-held phones when driving was introduced, so it's worrying to see that many motorists are continuing to use their devices when on the road.

“While it can seem tempting for people to use their phones at the wheel whilst driving they should always pull over to make a call, send a text, or browse the internet.”
 

11 user comments

Oldest firstNewest firstBest rated

Over the last few weeks, on my 5km run home from work through inner Birmingham, I have been keeping an eye on what passing motorists have been doing at the wheel. My rough survey tells me that 1 in 20 drivers that pass me are openly using a phone at the wheel.
1 in 20 passing me equates to 1 in 20 of inner Birmingham drivers using a phone at any point in time - these are truly scary figures!
What is needed is a hard-hitting public information campaign and a serious ratcheting up of the surveillance and penalties for offenders.

andybwhite's picture

posted by andybwhite [183 posts]
11th February 2013 - 12:44

like this
Like (5)

when a texting driver mows down a judges daughter
perhaps something will get done - until then I'm not
holding my breath ... Sad

still on the 3rd switch-back of Bwlch !

posted by therevokid [698 posts]
11th February 2013 - 13:06

like this
Like (6)

It's quite often those with bluetooth built in who don't seem to be able to figure out how to connect their phone to their car. I see people with a phone clamped to their heads driving cars worth over £50K every week.

I bought a Motorola bluetooth hands free gizmo for my old banger for £50. It sits on the visor and works just fine every time.

£100? It should be 3 points or £300 per point i.e.: £900. That would stop them.

I'm ranting in a self righteous manner again but until the fines are draconian and for that matter 'careless' driving is simplified to 'dangerous' driving nothing will change at all.

Silly me. You're probably right....

MercuryOne's picture

posted by MercuryOne [1055 posts]
11th February 2013 - 15:17

like this
Like (5)

MercuryOne wrote:
It's quite often those with bluetooth built in who don't seem to be able to figure out how to connect their phone to their car. I see people with a phone clamped to their heads driving cars worth over £50K every week.

I bought a Motorola bluetooth hands free gizmo for my old banger for £50. It sits on the visor and works just fine every time.

£100? It should be 3 points or £300 per point i.e.: £900. That would stop them.

I'm ranting in a self righteous manner again but until the fines are draconian and for that matter 'careless' driving is simplified to 'dangerous' driving nothing will change at all.

Not only that, but the dealer will connect it for you when you collect the car if you're that dim. They'll even do it again for free when you change your phone!

Last night I would have considered trading a very loud baby for a really nice bike.

posted by notfastenough [3083 posts]
11th February 2013 - 15:48

like this
Like (6)

Every afternoon as cars and I overtake each other on the way out of Bristol I see driver after driver texting or facebooking or twittering etc. It's often the ones who are veering into me as they crawl along and occasionally one will turn left across my path or just pull out in front of me. It literally happens every day and you can always guarantee the response from driver when you show your disapproval! There's a perception that it's ok to do this when the traffic is crawling - people don't think it's wrong.
I deliberately leave my phone in the boot when I drive - I'll be the first to admit that the temptation to 'just check to see who it is' is hard to resist, especially in slow traffic.

posted by Ting [51 posts]
11th February 2013 - 20:06

like this
Like (8)

Simple solution, make cellphone jammers compulsory in all motor vehicles. Engine running = no signal.

posted by drfabulous0 [293 posts]
11th February 2013 - 21:33

like this
Like (13)

Yup, pisses me off when I'm riding a powered or human powered two wheelers, but when I see cyclists with iPods &
texting at the same time (astride a brompton!) makes y'realise that there are ter'wats in both camps, the common factor being human stupidity.

However Car drivers are in possession of potential lethal weapon - that be the difference. Now for my next rant, cyclists who think that a red light is just for indication only ! grrrr.

To slo to live, to slo to die! ::-}

posted by OldnSlo [122 posts]
11th February 2013 - 23:14

like this
Like (0)

How about switching the phone off. Even easier

nige

formereve's picture

posted by formereve [65 posts]
11th February 2013 - 23:18

like this
Like (9)

ex-bloomingly-actly Big Grin

To slo to live, to slo to die! ::-}

posted by OldnSlo [122 posts]
12th February 2013 - 0:04

like this
Like (7)

You don't need bespoke hands-free kits that read out text messages for you - you can get an app for that on android! It's called voice notify. Works on the bike too, if you can hear your phone over the cars...

posted by a.jumper [694 posts]
12th February 2013 - 1:07

like this
Like (7)

The irony of this is that I got stopped by two probably bored coppers who said I was using my mobile phone in my car at a set of traffic lights.

In fact I took out my hearing aid to scratch my ear seemed a good enough place.

When I pointed out my mobile phone was in my bag in the boot. They initially wouldn't have it. Nice argument with these two prats who had nothing better to do than. They were so eloquent about £200 fines and 6 to 9 points of my license.

They also held up the traffic for over 20 minutes over this and they didn't believe me even when I asked them to find my mobile in the front of the car and then check the front pocket of my bag in the boot.

They even contacted someone to see if taking out a hearing aid scratching your ear and replacing is an offense. I must admit it did take some time as I had a bit of a problem with that aid working you needed to fiddle with it a bit to get it to work.

posted by Ciaran Patrick [117 posts]
13th February 2013 - 22:26

like this
Like (6)