Road Safety News

IAM research highlights ‘shocking’ smartphone stats

Thursday 23rd July 2015

Photo staged in stationary vehicle for illustrative purposes only

The IAM has published new research which it says “reveals the shocking extent to which drivers use their phones and tablets to take selfies, make video calls and watch videos while driving”.

The research, commissioned by the IAM, asked 500 drivers how they use their smartphones and tablets in the car.

9% of all respondents admitted to taking a ‘selfie’ while driving in the last month. This increased to 15% of respondents aged 18-24 years, and 19% of those aged 25-35 years. 5% of female respondents admitted doing so, compared to 12% of males.

8% of those questioned admitted to driving while using a video application such as FaceTime and Skype to make and receive video calls, rising to 16% among those aged 18-24 years.

7% admitted to watching videos and ‘catch-up television’ while driving - rising to 13% of those aged 18-24 years and 15% of 25-32 year olds.

18% claimed to have accessed the internet while driving (27% of those aged 18-24 years, and 34% aged 25-34 years).

Despite this, the IAM says number of drivers given penalty points for using a smartphone at the wheel “fell by more than 40% in 2014”.

Sarah Sillars, IAM chief executive officer, said: “Everyone knows how dangerous using a smartphone or tablet is while driving. That’s why it’s shocking to see new trends like taking selfies and making video calls becoming common practice. 

“More must be done to catch drivers using these devices dangerously by increasing the fines and points for smartphone and tablet use at the wheel.

“Campaigns must also be introduced that raise awareness of the prevalence of the issue in society and make this behaviour socially unacceptable as drink-driving”.


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Peter, Duncan - It is most likely a combination of risk compensation and Yerkes Dodson law at play here, rather than exclusively one or the other.

In terms of why there are so few collisions involving drivers using mobile phones, the contributory factors in accident data are the contributory factors identified in the initial investigation of an RTC. It is only further into the investigation that mobile phone use would be identified. However, by this time the initial information is submitted and never updated with the true contributory factors. Poor data quality is impeding evidence-based decision making.

How do we tackle this? Increased prioritisation of road safety within policing is required. The cuts within roads policing compared to other areas of business is disproportionate compared to the level of threat and risk faced by motorists on a daily basis. The police are too busy chasing burglars and robbers to realise the harm being caused by bigger public health issues, such as RTCs. The road safety industry needs to put more pressure on policing to tackle the issue than is currently being applied at present.
Chris, West Midlands

Agree (16) | Disagree (1)

I agree with Duncan. If there were no fancy phones, sound systems or whatever, shop windows would be perused, horizons gazed at, maps checked, and cigarettes lit.
Derek Reynolds, Salop.

Agree (6) | Disagree (2)

Laws must talk about how technologies must be ..and not only how behaviors must be and (what) users must do.
Morsli from Algeria

Agree (5) | Disagree (1)

Funny, but when 20 limits comes up on this forum, some bright spark will say how drivers will have to spend more time anxiously looking at their speedometer and not the road. Obvioulsy not then, if at the same time some think there'll be plenty of time to take selfies and do some texting. Isn't life confusing sometimes?
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

Agree (5) | Disagree (3)

Not risk compensation Peter, just adding tasks to bring themselves up to the optimum level of cognitive load. I'm afraid that's what happens when you slow people down too much.
Duncan MacKillop. No surprise - No accident.

Agree (8) | Disagree (6)

Recently had a session with some 6th formers who suggested that in a 20MPH zone they would "Have time to text and take selfies as everyone would be going slowly". Is this a form of Risk Compensation or just an age related cultural thing? As to "more must be done to catch drivers", increasing fines and points won't catch them only increase the punishment for those who have been caught. How about more roads policing?
Peter Westminster

Agree (18) | Disagree (0)

Dave: It's down to luck and chance. Certain undesirable behaviour behind the wheel, or on the road generally, makes collisions more likley than if that particular behaviour didn't take place - but it's not an inevitable consequence. The percentage of poor road user behaviour or the number of incidences of poor behaviour, is not neccesarily reflected in the statistics, so you can't necessarily match up the two. It's down to probability..and running out of luck. If you monitor poor road user behaviour (including 'phone use) at a junction for instance or on the local, busy High Street, you'll see a lot of close-calls and 'accidents waiting to happen' but probably not an actual collision due to chance and of course other road users' actions.
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

Agree (6) | Disagree (4)

I wonder if the IAM took the opportunity to repremand those respondents who admitted doing all these things? If not, what was the point in the survey? We've all seen these antics for ourselves so we know it goes on. I presume the respondents are not members of the IAM!
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

Agree (3) | Disagree (8)

I suspect we all agree that mobile use while driving is at a high level (surveys find around 4%), and I suspect we all also agree that mobile use while driving seems likely to cause more collisions. So why are there so few collisions when using mobiles (<1%)?

The theories (and the law) are not supported by the data yet, I would have thought, we want road safety to be based upon evidence?
Dave Finney, Slough

Agree (6) | Disagree (5)