Car and smartphone makers must come up with an answer to hand-held mobile phone dangers, says IAM RoadSmart

Road safety charity IAM RoadSmart has renewed its calls for car makers and smartphone manufacturers to work with the government to develop a technological solution to distracted drivers – saying that simply hoping that drivers will do the right thing is not enough.

The call comes as Department of Transport Ministers plans to meet mobile phone manufacturers this month to hammer out proposals to tackle the growing issue of people interacting with their smartphones at the wheel.

This is in addition to the government announcing last November that anyone caught using a hand-held mobile phone while at the wheel of a car would be fined £200 and receive six points on their licence – a doubling of the existing penalty (reference 1).

The issue was brought into sharp focus with the jailing of Tomasz Kroker for 10 years in October 2016. Kroker killed a mother and three children in August when he was distracted by changing music on his smartphone and ploughed into a line of stationary traffic (reference 2) in his lorry.

A toughening of the punishments for such offences is welcomed by those surveyed by IAM RoadSmart. The charity found 94% of those asked felt that drivers checking or updating social media was a threat to their personal safety (reference 3).

Neil Greig, director of policy and research at IAM RoadSmart, said the charity has been calling for a technological solution to a problem caused by technology itself for many years, and welcomed the government’s new industry initiative.
Neil said: It isn’t enough for the providers of this technology to simply say ‘it is up to the individual’. Every phone in use today already comes with a driving mode that can cut out calls, but they are very rarely used. This would suggest that ‘carrots or sticks’ may be needed to actually get people to use any new approach.

Carrots could come in the form of incentives for companies to fit new apps or to ensure their employees switch off on the go. For example, no government contracts unless you have a ‘no mobile phone use’ policy in place.

Sticks could come in the form of new penalties, but also links to insurance so your level of cover is reduced if you don’t have the new app switched on when you have a crash.

He added: The actual detail of the new technology will have to be worked out. But with accurate GPS and more sensitive movement sensors in most phones, it should be possible to target the driver’s phone whilst still allowing the ever growing range of connected car services such as sat-nav and traffic/tourist information. Passengers should still have the ability to use phones as well.

Neil concluded: IAM RoadSmart also wants to see the wider issue of distracted driving by technology being taken on board by the industry. The modern dashboard contains a wealth of new services that may assist drivers but can also distract. A star rating system for in-car complexity would be a useful tool to alert drivers to the different ways they now need to interact with their car.

The issue was highlighted in IAM RoadSmart’s report The Battle for Attention, published in February this year (reference 4).

Reference 1: https://www.iamroadsmart.com/media-and-policy/newsroom/news-details/2016/11/08/higher-penalties-for-hand-held-mobile-phone-drivers-welcomed-by-iam-roadsmart-but-more-action-needed-to-stop-further-casualties

Reference 2: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-37823457

Reference 3: https://www.iamroadsmart.com/media-and-policy/newsroom/news-details/2016/11/23/fear-of-mobile-phone-usage-while-driving-increases-in-minds-of-uk-drivers-iam-roadsmart-survey-finds

Reference 4: https://www.iamroadsmart.com/media-and-policy/research-and-policy/research-details/don’t-poke-me-i’m-driving

Snowing me, snowing you … there is something we can do!

IAM RoadSmart brings you expert advice on driving in snow from its head of driving and riding advice Richard Gladman.

Best advice is to avoid travelling in extreme weather. If no one is moving, you just add to the problem – so listen to travel advice.

If you do have to travel in bad weather, plan your journey thoroughly. Think about where you are going and what it will be like all the way along the journey. If you can, avoid travelling on less-used roads or country lanes as these are less likely to be gritted.

Before setting off, clear all your windows and mirrors fully. Clear off snow piled on the roof of your car and the bonnet too, as it can fall and blow on to the windscreen. Don’t leave anything obscured.

Start your car gently from stationary and avoid high revs. If road conditions are extremely icy and you drive a manual car, you should move off in a higher gear rather than first gear. You should stay in a higher gear to avoid wheel spin.

It’s important you get your speed right when travelling in snow. Never drive too fast that you risk losing control, and don’t drive so slowly that you risk losing momentum for getting up a slope.

Increase your following distance from the vehicle in front of you. It may take up to 10 times as long to stop on snow or ice build this into your following distance – this will give you more time to slow down using engine braking which is less likely to induce a skid.

Make sure you slow down sufficiently before reaching a bend so you have enough time to react to any hazards that appear as you go round it – and so you do not skid as well. You should have finished slowing down before you start to turn the steering wheel.

If you break down or have to pull over on a motorway or dual carriageway, you should leave your vehicle and stand to the safe side of it – ideally well over the armco to the nearside of the road, but not in front of it, when waiting for help.

Richard said: Many of the problems associated with travel during snow could be avoided if people planned in advance. People routinely travel with only the minimum of safety equipment, without realising their journey could be a lot longer than expected.

At the very least you should have a shovel, torch, blanket, jump-leads and tow rope. You should ensure your mobile phone is fully charged, and the number of your recovery organisation is saved into it.  A bottle of water and a snack may also prove useful and don’t set out without knowing the locations of petrol stations on your way.

This all might sound obvious, but too many of us forget to do any of this. Don’t be one of the ill-prepared, and listen to the weather forecast for the whole length of a winter journey to help you prepare for it.