01/03/2017

What more can be done to stop people using their phone whilst driving?

From today the penalties for using your phone whilst driving have been doubled - and about time.

It is one of my biggest hates seeing people driving around with their phone pressed to their ear, or seeing someone texting while driving. Even worse, when you get Snapchats of people singing, dancing and playing around in the car - all while driving. It makes me feel sick, thinking of the potential consequences of what seems like such a fun and split-second action.

I don't want to sound boring, or like a fun sponge, but can people honestly say it's worth the risk? If you're reading this thinking I sound like an uptight moaning Myrtle, just think for a second - how would you feel if you were involved in an accident because you took your eyes off the road, just for a second, to read a text? How would you feel if, in that car, was a mum and her newborn baby? Or an elderly couple with their grandchildren in the car? What if someone you knew was in it? What if a passenger in your car was injured? What if you got injured?

Imagine if you took your eyes off the road for a second to send a Snapchat, and missed the traffic lights turn to red. Imagine you don't stop, don't see the people crossing the road, and you knock someone down.

Even worse, how would you feel if someone close to you was seriously injured, or worse killed, in an accident because another driver was on their phone and not giving the road their full attention?

You might think "it's only a second" but a second is a long time when driving a car. A second can change everything.

I'm sure most people who use their phones while driving do so in complete innocence, probably not even thinking about what they're doing. Whether they're changing a song, looking at their phone for its map or looking to see if anyone has messaged. It's that innocent mindset that people need to undo and realise the dangers.

The glove box should be renamed the phone box. When we get in the car we shouldn't put our phones where we can see them, 'just so we can keep an eye on them', they should go out of sight.

I don't even like fiddling trying to find the right nob to alter the temperature in the car, let alone faffing with my phone. As soon as I get in my car it goes face down in the cup holder. I can't see it then if it flashes up with a text or notification, and it's always on silent so it never makes a noise.

If you're caught with your phone while you're behind the wheel from today, you'll be slapped with six points and a £200 fine. Despite previously getting three points and £100 fine if caught with your phone behind the wheel, so many people still did it.

I really, really hope this is enough to stop people from doing it in the first place. I've watched horrific, graphic videos of staged accidents caused by someone making a split-second decision to use their phone, or take a Snapchat while driving. I've read harrowing interviews with the family of people who have died in accidents because someone wasn't paying attention to the road because they were on their phone.

Yet, despite everything out there telling people not to do it, people still do. I drive along every day and see at least one motorist on my way to and from places using their phone. I just want to scream at them, tell them they're idiots and are putting not only their own life at risk, but the lives of everyone else on that stretch of road.

I don't understand why people still do it.

People driving their kids around, people ferrying family to and from places, courier drivers, van drivers, lorry drivers - I've seen it all. I have been tempted many a time, when someone is using their phone while driving a van with a company name/number on it, to ring the company and report them. It's just so, so stupid.

If I ring or text someone and they reply, but I know they are driving, I hang up/stop replying straight away. The guilt I would feel if something happened to them because they were replying to my message or answering my call would be unbearable.

I really, truly hope these changes brought into force today make people think twice about using their phones while driving. If not to save their life, and others on the road, but to save themselves the points and a fine.

No call, no text and no Snapchat is worth risking lives for. The problem with society today is we are so used to always being able to reach people. You can send a tweet to someone and them instantly get a notification to their phone notifying them. The same with Facebook, Instagram, email, text... People are so used to being able to reply at any time, that they don't even think of the dangers of being on their phone.

THINK! the road safety charity have summed up the law in three concise bullet points, for those who are unclear.

1. It's illegal to use a handheld mobile when driving. This includes using your phone to follow a map, read a text, or check social media. This applies even if you're stopped at traffic lights or queuing in traffic.
2. You can only use a handheld phone if you are safely parked and the engine is switched off, or if you need to call 999 or 112 in an emergency and it's unsafe or impractical to stop.
3. Using hands free is not illegal. However, if this distracts you and affects your ability to drive safely, you can still be prosecuted.

I'm not going to lie, I didn't know it was illegal to use your phone while stopped in queuing traffic. I've been known to check mine quickly while sat at a level crossing, or when I'm in a super long queue at roadworks. No more of that, though.

I remember a friend saying once he was stuck in rush hour traffic, hadn't moved for 10 minutes, so picked up his phone to message his friend and say he'd be late. A police car pulled up alongside, also in traffic, and spotted him on his phone. Apparently the officer just shook her head and waved her finger at him.

I would urge you to watch the video below and I am sure that 99% of people will never want to use their phones while driving ever again.


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