The graduation of mobile phones from simple calling devices to “small computers” is playing a damaging role in the progress of road safety, police claim.
Scrolling through social media apps while in control of a vehicle is becoming a common driver behaviour clocked by officers nationwide.
The RAC suggests an obsession with ‘fear of missing out’ (FOMO) has intensified in the social media era, and is now spilling over into the time spent behind the wheel. A week-long campaign to tackle the problem in November saw more than 40 drivers caught every hour.
With stricter legislationon dangerous driving expected to be introduced from March, police are raising awareness of the clear dangers. Pc Steve Bretnall of Greater Manchester Police spoke from a roadside operation in Oldham.
Pointing out that modern phones are no longer just used for making and receiving calls, he said the rise of news apps, social media and even games have become a threat on the UK’s roads.
Pc Bretnall said: “I gave somebody a traffic offence report two weeks ago for using her phone to check Facebook and scrolling through Facebook while she was driving. She didn’t see a problem with that, she said ‘I’m not using it as a phone’.
“And, of course, the misconception is that you have to have a mobile phone to your ear and in conversation to commit an offence, but that’s not the case at all.
“If you’re using it as satellite navigation, if you’re stationary in traffic or if you are using it to text somebody, which is probably the worst way of using your phone because the amount of concentration required to do that while driving presents a clear danger to other road users, then you are still committing an offence.”
Pete Williams, RAC road safety spokesman, said: “Nearly a fifth of drivers surveyed for the latest RAC report on motoring admitted that they texted, emailed or posted on social media while driving, and this rose to 37% when in stationary traffic.”
Under plans announced last year, the Department for Transport is set to introduce legislation doubling the punishment for using a handheld mobile phone while driving – with the fine rising from £100 to £200 and penalty points increasing from three to six.
The RAC claims more still could be done. “We believe that we need to force a change and make using a handheld mobile phone when driving as socially unacceptable as drink-driving,” Pete Williams added. “While tougher penalties are due to be introduced soon, we still need more targeted enforcement and greater understanding of the dangers involved.
“Drivers need to take personal responsibility for ending their addiction. If this is something you’re guilty of, it really is time to stop for good.”