We recently received an article from the UK with a very familiar message, texting and driving causes accidents, injuries and deaths. We concentrate all of our efforts in North America, but it does not surprise me that texting and driving is making headlines all around the world. Here is the UK article:
Are Penalties for On-Road Mobile Phone Usage Tough Enough in the UK?
The issue of texting while driving - or accessing your mobile phone while driving - is not only a big issue in the US and Canada, but also on the other side of the Atlantic, too.
The RAC's April 2012 survey of driving attitudes has revealed that many UK road users do not believe that the penalties in place for using a mobile phone whilst driving are tough enough, or that the current penalties are significant enough to prevent drivers flouting the rule.
At the same time, thousands of drivers polled admitted that they themselves were guilty of texting, calling, accessing social media, reading emails and visiting websites - all whilst behind the wheel. Yet only 124,700 drivers were served with a fixed penalty notice for flouting the law in 2011.
With so many people casually and perhaps even unconsciously breaking the law, how can we make the roads a safer place by reducing the number of us driving without due care and attention? Let's take a look at the statistics first...
42% of respondents would like to see a driving ban in place for those convicted for offences relating to mobile phone usage whilst driving. Meanwhile 53% stated that they were in support of fines and the penalty of points on your licence if you break the law in this way. A paltry 4% stated that they believed there should be no punishment for using a mobile on the road.
Yet an average of 21% of drivers admitted to holding their phone either whilst stationary in jams or whilst actively driving, despite Department of Transport figures which show that 90% of us know that it is not safe to talk on a hand held mobile whilst behind the wheel. This suggests that there is a significant amount of hypocrisy at work out there! We all know that when we use phones in the car our attention to the road is jeopardised, yet somehow believe we are the exception to the rule.
A 2011 British Social Attitudes survey by the Department for Transport showed that 71% of those polled believed that the law wasn't being enforced vigorously enough.
So how can the government take action to crack down on mobile phone usage on the UK's roads? The answer must surely be either tougher penalties or a higher rate of conviction and punishment. The latter solution would involve a greater and more visible police presence on our roads which, during a period of austerity and budget cuts, does not seem particularly feasible.
Tougher penalties for those that do break the law, on the other hand, would serve as cautionary tales for other would-be motoring phone users. Simultaneously, steeper fines would put some much needed cash back into the budget. Meanwhile, cutting down on road accidents by dissuading motorists from using mobiles whilst driving, would greatly lower the number of RTA (road traffic accident) and whiplash claims made every year.
With the UK now known as the 'whiplash capital of Europe' and the 'whiplash epidemic' adding an average of £90 (c. $140) to every insurance policy, a tougher approach to mobile phone usage could make driving far cheaper and far safer for Britain's motorists.
Guest blog post by Howells Whiplash Solicitors.