Distracted Driving – Which? Investigates

A MAG Ireland member has drawn our attention to a piece by Claire Evans, Deputy Motoring Editor for the UK non-profit consumer group Which? about the dangers of distracted driving.

Distracted driving covers everything from changing channels on the cars radio to squabbling children in the back seat but by far the biggest culprit is the use of mobile phones while driving.The difficulty is that quantifying the problem is not easy. To this end, Claire and two colleagues went along to the UK’s Transport Research Laboratory in Berkshire where they drove in a simulator while carrying out various tasks including sending a text message on a handheld mobile phone. The lab conditions at TRL allowed objective tests to be carried out.

To those of us who daily filter through slow traffic on a motorcycle or who have been on te receiving end of dangerous driving by a phone tapping driver, it will come as no surprise to learn that the subjects suffered a 19% reduction in attention while using a handheld mobile compared to an 11% reduction in attention while driving at the UK’s drink drive limit.

Interestingly, using a hands free kit was measured to be no safer than holding the phone itself with both scenarios producing the 19% attention deficit.

Texting while driving - Image credit: which.co.uk

Texting while driving – Image credit: which.co.uk

The most revealing result was the 79% reduction in attention while texting and driving, and this was the only test which caused any participant to crash the simulated car.

When attempting to write a text message, the average reaction time jumped to two seconds. In all but one of the tests, texting diminished our drivers’ abilities more than drinking, or any other type of phone use we tested in our research.

While the figures and references used in the article reflect the UK standards, it nevertheless makes for interesting reading for those of us on this side of the Irish Sea where driving custom and practice is broadly similar.

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Which? is a UK non-profit consumer champion.

Claire’s opening piece is on the which.co.uk web site here:

The main article on the which.co.uk web site is here:

Figures we quote above were taken from the print copy of Which?, October 2012.