Let’s Talk About Handsfree And Handheld Phones

What is your take on the Federal Road Safety Corp’s current battle to curb the craze called driving and phoning? I am talking about the enforcement against the use of phones while driving which carries the paltry sum of four thousand and four penalty points. Its failure to fully address this resulted in the birthing of the novelty called emotional evaluation introduced to deter offenders.

 I do not know if you are a believer in the school of thought that supports the use of hands-free. Are you aware that our laws prohibit the use of hands-free or handheld as well as the use of inbuilt Bluetooth a friend once yabbed me saying I should wake up to the reality of the new age and improvements in technology? It is common to hear offenders argue that they were using hands-free and as such are not liable. There were others who would say sorry I wasn’t using my mobile phone but was using Google Maps to locate the destination. This was celebrated by a female offender who went bizarre perfectly calling the Corps all names including unlettered for daring to arrest a motorist for using Google Maps which as the law says is a component of the mobile phone. Some would argue that they merely checked to know who was calling while there are those who would say they were merely holding the phone in their hands forgetting that driving with one hand is an offense because of the potential danger it portends. One lately asked me if it was wrong while waiting at a traffic light to use the phone after all the vehicle was not moving.

What you are about to read this week is not my piece but a culled piece that I believe would shed better light on this argument by the recalcitrant drivers who would rather break the law and risk the life of a loved one. One thing I know which is constant with all mobile phone manufacturers is the warning about the need to obey traffic laws in peculiar countries. 

This is similar to what car manufacturers also do with respect to the use of seat belts as well as car restraint cautioning that the airbag has the potential of hurting or killing. While phone manufacturers place theirs on the manual, car manufacturers place theirs on the front passenger mirror as well as the driver warning on the dangers of being killed by an airbag in case of a road traffic crash in the absence of a seat belt used appropriately.

In this latest opinion piece, three experts outline how the potential displacement from handheld to hands-free phone use, as a result of existing enforcement efforts, could prove to be ‘hugely problematic’ for road safety. The piece was written by Gemma Briggs (Open University), Helen Wells (Keele University), and Leanne Savigar-Shaw (Staffordshire University) all in the United Kingdom and I have chosen to share this piece with you.

 The writers note that mobile phone use is a growing problem not just in the United Kingdom as well as in other societies including ours. It is increasingly common to see drivers texting while stopped in traffic or using their devices to check routes or change music. It is equally common to hear drivers on hands-free mobile phone calls or to see them seemingly talking to themselves as they drive. When driver distraction is mentioned in the media it is usually with reference to the illegal – handheld – form of the behavior. 

We all know that it is unsafe to look away from the road and to take your hands off the steering wheel to interact with a phone. So it makes sense that legislation is in place to ban such dangerous behavior. Nevertheless, people continue to engage in this risky behavior, perhaps because they feel they are better-than-average drivers, that they can multitask, or simply because they feel it is unlikely that they will get caught by the police.

To better understand phone use by drivers, we recently surveyed, via YouGov, 1500 drivers on their phone use. Fifty-four percent of respondents claimed not to use their phones in any way while driving. Of those who claimed to use their phones:3.1percent admitted to using their phone handheld to make or receive calls, compared with 34.9 percent who claimed to make/receive calls using hands-free technology. 

The report also states that 4.2 percent admitted to using their phone handheld to text, compared with 7.3 percent who said that they text using hands-free technology. 2.9 percent of respondents said that they use their phone handheld to either play games, watch videos, select music, or search the internet, compared with 5.9 percent of respondents who said they use hands-free technology to carry out such tasks.

On first inspection, this data offers promise: more than half of drivers claim not to be distracted by their phones at all, and most of those who do use their phones do so in accordance with the law (hands-free). Nevertheless, a minority of drivers admit to handheld phone use, despite this being illegal. Such a finding isn’t really surprising as we know that motorists violate various laws, which is why enforcement of the law is important. When we look at this data in the context of research findings, however, we would argue that there is far less promise in terms of road safety.

While you ponder on the data made available in the case of the UK, please indulge me to whet your appetite with a similar study in Germany on their driving behavior, especially with regard to the use of smartphones. The report reminds us of the state of Road traffic collisions as the leading cause of death for those between the ages of 15–29, according to the World Health Organisation. 

This study investigates one of the primary reasons for the high fatality rate among Young Novice Drivers (YNDs); their use of smartphones while driving. It gathered responses from a representative sample of YNDs on their behavior while driving using an updated version of the ‘Behavior of Young Novice Drivers Scale’.

Survey responses totaled 700 YNDs situated throughout Germany. From these responses, the report examined the prevalence of certain driving behaviors that are described as ‘distracting’ and compared these driving behaviors to the respondents’ use of specific smartphone features. The responses report that music-related activities (e.g. changing music on a smartphone) are most common amongst YNDs. Speaking on the phone is seldom reported, although more males than females indicated engagement in this behavior. 

The study further carried out a correlation and correspondence analysis. On that basis, we found that those who report speaking on a smartphone are significantly more likely to engage in driving behaviors with potentially fatal consequences, such as speeding and driving while impaired by prohibited substances (drugs, alcohol). The study proposed that the results could be used by policymakers for public information implications and to tailor financial penalties for those engaging in smartphone behaviors that are linked to harmful driving behaviors. In addition, our findings can also be used in a Usage-based Insurance (UBI) context to financially incentivize safer driving.

Source: Leadership

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