Mobiles at the Wheel: What More Can Be Done?

It was reported this month that the latest crackdown on motorists who use their phone at the wheel is largely being ignored by drivers. A massive 6,000 motorists were penalised within the first four weeks of the implementation. Although the law was only implemented on March 1st, and it may take time for public knowledge of the new law to become widespread, these figures reveal that one driver every seven minutes is being caught using their phone at the wheel, which is an enormous figure for such a short time…


Here at Barnes, we’ve been wondering why exactly is the public choosing to disregard this new law? What can be done to encourage responsible driving, and what will it take for them to tuck their device safely away in the glove box?


Texting whilst driving may be due to our brain’s hardwiring, according to research by Dr. Susan Weinschenk of the University of Wisconsin. Every text and message we receive is the equivalent to a small hit of dopamine, or instant happiness – and, when it comes to motorway driving, distraction. As humans crave that dopamine hit, their hands will reach temptingly to view a text message. We also frequently overestimate our ability to multitask: if we’ve texted whilst driving once with no consequences, then it can become habitual, as we think we can do it every time without a hitch.


Yet the price of this overestimation and temptation is clear; in 2012 the Department for Transport advised that of the 88 deaths caused by distraction, the majority were due to mobile phone use. So, what can be done to prove to motorists the dangers of this distraction? One initiative that firms are rolling out is to provide all their drivers with hands-free Bluetooth sets for their vehicles to fully deter mobile phone use. While this is a potentially expensive solution, it would provide safer driving for motorists, as their concentration is fully focused on the roads ahead when on the phone.


However, this is not a completely perfect solution – as even Bluetooth hands-free sets can sometimes be a distraction themselves, if their settings need tending to or if something goes wrong with them – as is often the case with technology.


Could more be done by the Government to show the public the devastation that is caused by using mobile phones on the road? It would seem that tougher sanctions might not have had the desired effect. Iconic ‘It’s 30 for a reason’ videos and posters have been shown over the past decade depicting people haunted by graphic images of child victims, from their choice to speed in 30mph zones. Might it be time for the Government to tackle mobile phones at the wheel with more hard hitting videos and posters alongside their current imagery, which simply show phones in a glove compartment and a sign with two messages?

Whether it comes from business leaders, local councils or a national campaign from the Government, one thing’s for sure: one driver every seven minutes caught using mobile devices is a startling figure which must be tackled.