Road Safety News

Brake and RoSPA issue in-car wi-fi warning

Wednesday 3rd December 2014

The digital communications company EE has launched its latest in-car wi-fi device, the Buzzard 2, which aims to bring connectivity without needing a built-in solution (

Buzzard 2 is available to businesses and consumers on a range of pay-as-you-go and monthly plans. The device can plug directly into the dashboard’s 12v connection without needing an adapter, while an extra USB socket allows other devices to be connected to it and charged.

According to, both Brake and RoSPA are urging the Government to carefully monitor technology as they believe it could compromise safety.

James McLoughlin, spokesperson for Brake, told “Last year, somebody was killed or seriously injured on average every three days by a driver distracted by their mobile phone.

“Driving is one of the most complicated and risky tasks many of us do on a regular basis, and it requires our full concentration to drive safely.

“At a time when people are still needlessly killed and injured because of selfish multi-tasking drivers, the Government would need to think seriously about how in-car wifi technology could be regulated to ensure it doesn’t create further distractions for drivers.”

Nick Lloyd, RoSPA’s road safety manager, added: “RoSPA is concerned that technology in cars must be carefully used to improve road safety rather than as an aid to comfort or quicker communication.

“Research by TRL has shown that using a hands-free mobile phone is a driver distraction which affects a driver’s reaction time and observation skills.

“Technological advancement needs to be carefully monitored so that safety is not compromised.”

An EE spokesperson responded: “In-car WiFi is designed for use by passengers and should only be used in ways that comply with road safety law.”


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Quite right Idris.
If we are to presume that it may take up to 3 seconds to appreciate that the vehicle in front is stopping or has already come to complete halt or is merely just slowing and then we have to add on the two thirds of a second reaction time after that before the brake pedal hits the metal we are talking between 3 and a half to 4 seconds. At 30 mph the distance travelled is say 4 x 45ft p.sec. or 180ft. 60 mtrs. before the actual braking distance is taken into account. And to my own knowledge I judge the average distance between vehicles travelling at that 30 mph speed to be no more than 40ft.

No wonder we have accidents. Space is Safe.

PS: the 2 second rule only applies to speeds up to 30 mph (one lamp post apart approx) anything above that speed requires greater space. At 70 mph it is 330ft. (one marker post apart) and then on all occasions it's greater x 2 in poor weather conditions or wet roads.
Bob Craven Lancs Space is Safe Campaigner

Agree (3) | Disagree (0)

All agreed except "three seconds". Most drivers I see on busy roads don't even leave one second gaps from the vehicle in front.

"only a fool ignores the two second rule" was first used years ago but even now some experienced drivers have never heard it and seem not to understand it when they do. Far, far too much IT has already been allowed in cars.
Idris Francis Fight Back With Facts Petersfield

Agree (4) | Disagree (0)

I would have said three seconds as well Duncan as being the absolute maximum time for something to have happened up ahead and be 'in time' to react, if they'd just looked up.
Have you ever noticed someone driving with their head orientated as if they're staring at the inside of the drivers door, with their right arm/hand (if they're right-handed) not visible? They'll be using their 'phone - trying to be discreet but failing! If they're left-handed, they'll appear to be staring at the centre console. Occasionally they'll snatch a quick glance up through the windscreen, but for them, the 'phone apparently deserves more attention.
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

Agree (9) | Disagree (3)

Excellent observation Hugh! The key bit of your post "taking their eyes off the road ahead long enough" cuts to the very heart of the problem. It is the amount of TIME that drivers are diverted from the primary task to spend on the diverting activity instead that is critical.

The drivers in the vast majority of road accidents take just three seconds to go from happy and smiling to twitching in the gutter so any diversion of attention has to take that figure into account. Doesn't matter what the diversion actually is from looking down at the speedo to checking a Facebook status it's how much those diversions actually eat into that three second buffer that drivers need to be concerned with.

Of course drivers can be diverted many hundreds of times during a journey, but it is if they are diverted at the same TIME that an unfolding situation changes from normal to off-normal that actually starts the accident rolling.

When you consider that the brain works at a clock rate of 200Hz then in three seconds it is capable of updating itself 600 times from the unfolding situation. Any one of those updates could prove to be the key piece of information that a driver needs to identify the fact that something out there is going wrong. Miss the critical update(s) and it's likely that the driver will be making decisions based on outdated information instead of the bang up to date stuff. When their attention is either attracted or directed back to the unfolding situation then they clearly have a much reduced time buffer in which to make the correct control inputs to ameliorate the situation.

It actually takes a fair amount of time to work out if a vehicle in front is stopped or stopping so a distraction that stops that analysis from happening will often lead to disaster.
Duncan MacKillop, Startford on Avon

Agree (10) | Disagree (0)

The driving task will require sudden 'peaks' in processing to detect and respond to a 'threat' or a complex or novel traffic situation. In these cases ANY additional task has the potential to cause conflict with the requirements of the task of safe driving, therefore not engaging in those tasks while driving is the advice given. The problem is that these situations are rare and random within the driving task and every driver will seek an optimum level of arousal in between.

Systems such as collision warning, AEB and lane departure warning offer some warning (and action) to drivers not responding to stimuli from the road environment so go some way to warning inattentive drivers (whatever the source of inattention) but arguably are too late in the process because a conflict of some description with the potential to result in collision has already occurred.
Matt Staton, Cambridgeshire

Agree (7) | Disagree (2)

Apart from the distraction and interrupted concentration, doesn't the greater risk come from the driver simply taking their eyes off the road ahead long enough for the driver not to have realised that the vehicle in front had stopped?
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

Agree (5) | Disagree (4)

Good points Chris & Matt, but how is a person to know that they have fallen below some 'cognitive capacity' threshold? People might well be aware that using phones etc can have this effect, but in a given situation they would probably be more than happy that any cognitive overload had not yet reached a critical level.

The solution to the problem will be to give people a way of realising how perilously close to that cognitive threshold they actually are.
Duncan MacKillop, Startford on Avon

Agree (5) | Disagree (1)

We can multi-task providing the tasks involve different parts of the brain. In this case as with the use of other mobile devices our brain can only formulate a response to either the incoming information required to drive or the incoming information from the device, so whilst it is formulating a response to the device we are distracted from the incoming information required to drive.

Anyone who chooses to do something whilst driving that has the above effect is indeed selfish.
Chris Harrison Gloucestershire

Agree (9) | Disagree (2)

I agree Duncan, but maybe "...selfish drivers engaging in additional tasks which reduce their available congnitive capacity below that required to attend to the driving task at that specific moment in time..." wasn't quite snappy enough for a press statement??
Matt Staton, Cambridgeshire

Agree (11) | Disagree (0)

Selfish multi-tasking drivers? I thought that multi-tasking was a pre-requisite skill for operating a complex machine in such a hostile and multi-variate environment as the roads.

Only learner drivers concentrate on their driving which is why they get tired very quickly and why they absorb only a fraction of what they are experiencing. We experienced drivers and riders on the other hand merely 'attend' to the driving or riding task which is a different mental process altogether.
Duncan MacKillop, Stratford on Avon

Agree (10) | Disagree (6)

Brake appear to have their figures right. In 2013, “Driver using mobile phone” contributed to 95 KSI collisions (1 every 4 days) but this leads to a puzzle as yet unexplained. 95 KSI collisions is 0.5% of all KSI collisions but survey measurements find between 2.5% to 5% of drivers using the phone at any 1 time. This means that, for vehicles selected at random, drivers using their phone are less likely to crash than drivers not using their phone. I can think of a few possible reasons why this is the case but the results from the data are still counter-intuitive. Do we want policies to be evidence-based because, if we do, we have some serious research to do?
Dave Finney, Slough

Agree (11) | Disagree (5)