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Smart phone or not so smart phone?

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 Using smart phones for social networking while driving is more dangerous than drink driving or being high on cannabis behind the wheel according to research published recently by the Institute of Advanced Motorists.

Despite this, eight per cent of drivers admit to using smart phones for email and social networking while driving which is equivalent to 3.5 million licence holders.

Almost a quarter of the  17-24 year old drivers questioned, a group already at higher risk of being in a crash, admitted to using smart phones for email and social networking while driving.

For the research, the Institute of Advanced Drivers joined forces with Transport Research Laboratory and used DigiCar, a car driving simulator, to examine the effects of young drivers using smart phones to access Facebook. In every test of driving performance, young people who were using Facebook while driving were badly affected.

When sending and receiving Facebook messages:

  • reaction times slowed by around 38% and participants often missed key events;
  • participants were unable to maintain a central lane position resulting in an increased number of unintentional lane departures; and
  • were unable to respond as quickly to the car in front gradually changing speed.

When comparing these new results to previous studies the level of impairment on driving is greater than the effects of drinking, cannabis and texting.

  • Using a smartphone for social networking slows reaction times by 37.6 per cent;
  • texting slows reaction times by 37.4 per cent;
  • hands-free mobile phone conversation slows reaction times by 26.5 per cent;
  • cannabis slows reaction times by 21 per cent;
  • alcohol (above UK driving limit but below 100mg per 100ml of blood) slows reaction time by between six and 15 per cent; and
  • alcohol at the legal limit slows reaction times by 12.5 per cent.

The Institute of Advanced Motorists is calling for Government action to highlight the dangers of using smart phones behind the wheel. Attitudes to seatbelts and drink driving have changed dramatically over the last thirty years, and, with the right information, halting smart phone use could become a similar success story.

It’s antisocial networking and it’s more dangerous than drink driving and it must become just as socially unacceptable.

Young people have grown up with smart phones and using them is part of everyday life. But does more work need to be done by the Government and social network providers to show young people that they are risking their lives and the lives of others if they use their smart phones while driving?

Smart phones are incredibly useful and convenient tools when used appropriately and responsibly. Their use for social networking when driving is neither in my opinion.

By Sam Ord