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HGV Cab Cameras and Media Perception: Is This The Turning Point?

This year, Highways England have harnessed HGVs to help tackle dangerous driving on our roads. Using secret wide angle cameras in unmarked lorries’ dashboards, the inconspicuous trucks have been capturing video records of unsafe driving behaviour.

 

The move follows the success of a trial last year, which saw over 4,000 dangerous drivers caught. By allowing unsuspecting law breakers to be followed by the cab and have their behaviour recorded, police forces could then pull over the offenders and deal with the situation – be it a warning, or a prosecution.

 

What was promising and encouraging to see is the mainstream media’s reaction to these announcements. Rather than berate the ‘spying’ HGVs, the reaction to the police and Highway England’s efforts to increase road safety through immediate intervention has been, on the whole, positive. Although the phrase ‘spy camera’ has a somewhat antagonistic feel, national news outlets reporting about the HGV cameras in a favourable manner.

 

With the exception of a few pieces implying that the new camera systems are an underhand enemy to be loathed, the majority focus instead on what is most important – the driving crimes which are being caught. These cameras aren’t just there to catch out drivers going slightly over the speed limit: they have caught drivers using their mobile phones at the wheel – the dangers of which have never been more prominent than in recent years – a driver writing on a notepad, one eating a meal and even another brushing their teeth!

 

So why is reaction so important? Historically, reporting on HGVs has taken the same one-sided route – sensationalistic pieces reporting lorries’ near misses and irresponsible driving. Although, of course, such behaviour from professional drivers is absolutely abhorrent and should be disciplined appropriately – the issue lies within the bias of reporting and how this influences public perception.

 

If the only stories the public read about the professional driving industry in consumer media outlets involve the few extreme cases of poor and dangerous driving, an assumption will grow about the whole of the driving industry. This can lead to misconceptions and seriously tarnish the reputation of the majority of the safe, skilful HGV drivers whose dedicated work allows the UK’s businesses to thrive. Without HGVs, the country and its economy would come to a standstill – an aspect which is never mentioned in stories reporting on dangerous HGV driving.

 

So the positive reaction to the HGV in-cab cameras is a step in the right direction – at the least, it gives another perspective to HGV stories. Although we are, of course, not there yet in a balanced and fair narrative on lorries in consumer media, we can take hope from the start of this movement and continue to raise the profile of the industry ourselves through our highest quality Barnes professional standards.

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.

THE GOVERNMENT CRACKS DOWN ON DISTRACTED DRIVING

There has been a significant rise in the number of people using applications like Snapchat to record their latest rendition of Adele while driving; using Pokémon Go at a low speed in an attempt to ‘walk their eggs’ or posting status updates on Facebook, all from behind the wheel.

With a growing number of apps and distractions, It’s no wonder the Government has cracked down on the laws regarding the use of hand-held mobile phones while driving. But what changes have actually been made to the laws, how do these new laws affect HGV/LGV drivers and when are the laws in effect from?

The previous restrictions on driving while using your mobile phone including texting, making calls, taking photos/videos could have seen you get 3 penalty points on your license and fined up to £100 with the maximum fine being £1000. For those driving large goods vehicles the stakes are higher and so, the fine could be up to £2500.

So, how common is it for people in the UK to use their handheld mobile while driving? According to a recent survey carried out by the RAC, a third of drivers admit to having used their mobile while driving and 14% admitting to taking photos and videos with their phone:

 

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These statistics are worrying, and do beg the question – how many incidents have occurred due to drivers using their phone while driving?

‘In 2013 the use of a mobile at the wheel was a factor in 22 fatal accidents and this is likely to be underreporting of the true figure.’ The RAC

With this set to rise each year, it’s become apparent why the government wants to clamp down on this particular law, especially when there are so many applications and devices to distract drivers.

The new penalties for using your phone while driving will include receiving a minimum of six points on your licence and a hefty £200 fine. Twice as many points and twice the charge as the current penalties for offending.

A higher fine up to £1,000 and a six-month driving ban could apply to more experienced or professional drivers including those operating HGV/LGV’s.

The Department of Transport has said the new laws are set to come into effect in the first half of 2017.

What are your thoughts on the new penalties? Do you think they are fair, too severe or not strict enough? We would love to hear your thoughts in the comments!