Does using a mobile phone while driving REALLY increase the risk of crashing?

Your reaction time is 30% slower while using the phone than it would be if you were driving with an alcohol reading of 0.08 (well over the legal limit)

Direct Line Insurance Research

A young driver using a mobile phone while in the simulatorThe simple answer is ‘yes’.
Many studies, using a variety of different research techniques, have reached the same conclusions. Using a mobile phone whilst driving adversely affects driver performance in a number of different ways. It impairs:

  • Maintenance of lane position
  • Maintenance of appropriate and predictable speed
  • Maintenance of appropriate following distances from vehicles in front
  • Reaction times
  • Judgement and acceptance of safe gaps in traffic
  • General awareness of other traffic.

Much of the research has assessed using hands-free phones and demonstrates that these still distract drivers and impair safe driving ability, even when driving automatic cars, which are arguably easier to drive than the manual transmission cars.

There is also evidence that using a mobile phone while driving causes greater problems for those drivers who already have a higher accident risk, namely young, novice drivers and elderly drivers.

The amount of research confirming the risks is staggering!

A USA study of 699 drivers who had a mobile phone and who had been involved in a damage-only road accident examined their mobile phone records on the day of the accident and during the preceding week. Statistical analysis indicated that the risk of being involved in a collision was four times higher when using a hand-held or a hands-free phone than when not using one. In a recent review of their study, the authors have concluded that their findings were robust, and if anything under-estimated the risk.

Redelmeier, D. A., & Tibshirani, R. J. “Association Between Cellular Telephone Calls and Motor Vehicle Collisions”, The New England Journal of Medicine, Vol. 336, Number 7, 1997.

How effective  is a Driving Simulator at reproducing driving situations that are real enough?

A comparison of the effects of using a mobile phone while driving on real roads and on a driving simulator was conducted  to assess whether the results found on driving simulators were indicative of the results that could be expected on actual roads. Six male and six female drivers drove on a freeway route while periodically making calls on a hand-held mobile phone, and then drove a similar route on a driving simulator while also periodically making calls. Using the mobile phone reduced the driving precision (lane position and speed control) of all the subjects, both on the road and on the simulator. Although the variations in maintaining lane position were more exaggerated in the simulator than on the road, results still showed that the simulator provided a valid indication of the effects that would occur on the road.

Reed and Green “Comparison of Driving Performance On-road and in a Low-cost Simulator Using a Concurrent Telephone Dialling Task”, Ergonomics 42(8), 1999

How can we educate people regarding the real risks of using mobile phones while driving?

Sometimes, we don’t believe what we are being told by authority! Younger people especially have problems trusting or wanting to believe anyone other than their peers.

Our simulator will give groups of future and current drivers a hands-on experience of driving a real car while using a mobile phone. As research confirms, the driver will normally crash when trying to deal with talking on the phone and dealing with a hazard at the same time. Obviously texting while driving has an even greater effect on the safety of the driver.
There is nothing more effective than experience when it comes to learning. Here is our chance to let people experience the real dangers of inattention while driving, in the safety of a stationary vehicle.

Groups of teenagers are a tough audience when it comes to any kind of lecture. Road safety talks are a challenge for the most experienced of speakers. The simulator allows us to let the students learn from each other. This carries more relevance when they see their peers losing control of a car right in front of their eyes.

Other major causes of inattention that kill

  • Passengers
  • MP3 players (ipods etc)
  • Changing CDs
  • Smoking

These activities and others have all killed road users. It continues to happen. Too many families are destroyed by the lack of attention to driving.