Drivers need to hang up, says AA

editorial image

More than one fifth of drivers (22%) still can’t bear to turn off their phones whilst driving, according to the AA Charitable Trust.

Amongst younger drivers almost half (48%) are so addicted to their phones that they won’t switch off. The over 65s are more likely to switch off with just 13% resisting.

These results are part of an AA-Populus survey* of 19,308 drivers which shows that, despite extensive publicity following increased penalties introduced on March 1st, more needs to be done to change attitudes and reduce the number of deaths caused by distracted drivers.

It comes as almost a quarter (24%) say mobile phone use is the biggest road safety issue facing road users in the UK.

The AA Trust has been working hard to educate drivers about the dangers. The Trust’s radical ‘designated driver’ ad that compares drink driving and text driving has just won a gold medal at the international renowned creative Clio Awards. To add to its gold at the British Arrows Awards. The driver distraction campaign has also been short-listed for the top broadcast award by the PRCA.

However, in spite of the tougher penalties, two thirds (66%) of drivers think the use of handheld mobile phones at the wheel is actually getting worse. But in earlier research, the majority (71%)** said drivers should take responsibility for their own actions.

Edmund King, Director of the AA Charitable Trust, said: “It took time to change mainstream attitudes to drink driving so perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised that we still have some way to go to convince drivers to hang up their phones in the car.

“But it’s disappointing to see that, despite high profile coverage of the tragic consequences the offence can have, a fifth still see other drivers using handheld mobile phones on every journey and a further two fifths notice it on most journeys.

“We will continue to campaign on this issue working with the Government’s Think! campaign and others to show that using the phone at the wheel can be deadly.

“Many drivers even think the use of mobiles in cars is getting worse, rather than better. Drivers need to take responsibility for their own actions and the police need to clampdown on those who don’t.”

New drivers at risk

The research also revealed that one in five younger drivers (19%) are in danger of losing their licences and having to retake the test as they think it is OK to text whilst stationery in the car at lights or in traffic jams.

This still constitutes an offence and for new drivers within two years of passing their test, it would result in them losing their licence with a six-point penalty.

However, the results do show some attitudes are starting to shift. Younger drivers in particular show the biggest change, with a 9% drop in those who think it is OK to call or text while sitting in traffic (19% August 2017 vs 28% December 2016).

Other results:

2% of younger drivers still think it is OK to send a text whilst driving

5% of younger drivers think it is fine to make a hand-held call

3% of all drivers would answer a call or text if from son/daughter or loved one, rising to 7% amongst younger drivers

66% think mobile phone use in vehicles is getting worse

King added: “Our lives didn’t end before we owned mobile phones but ironically they could end if we continue using them at the wheel.”

Drink Drive V Text Drive

Drivers were also questioned on their views regarding different risks involved in drink driving or text driving.

70% think they would be more at risk texting and driving

30% think they would be more at risk drink driving

However, amongst young drivers the results were:

58% text driving

42% drink driving

Overall, 6% of drivers think it is OK to have a couple of alcoholic drinks before driving and 1% admit to sometimes driving above the limit (rising to 2% of over 65s).

And worryingly, 9% would drive after a couple of pints of beer or glasses of wine if they got an urgent call from son/daughter or loved one to be picked up.

Drivers in London are most likely to do this (12%) compared to half as many drivers in Wales (6%). Drivers in Scotland are least likely to pick up a loved one after a few drinks (4%), which perhaps reflects the fear of crime rather than availability of transport alternatives.