Using smartphones for social networking while driving is more dangerous than drink driving or being high on cannabis behind the wheel, according to research published by IAM (Institute of Advanced Motorists).
Despite this, eight per cent of drivers admit to using smartphones for email and social networking while driving – equivalent to 3.5 million license holders in the UK alone.
The IAM is the United Kingdom’s largest independent road safety charity, dedicated to improving standards and safety in driving, motorcycling and cycling. The commercial division of the IAM operates through its occupational driver training company IAM Drive & Survive. The IAM has more than 200 local volunteer groups and over 100,000 members in the UK and Ireland. It is best known for the advanced driving test and the advanced driving, motorcycling and cycling courses. Its policy and research division offers advice and expertise on road safety.
Smartphones and distractions are a real risk to drivers
Twenty-four per cent of 17-24 year old drivers – a group already at higher risk of being in a crash – admit to using smartphones for email and social networking while driving.
For their research, the IAM and TRL (Transport Research Laboratory) used DigiCar – TRL’s car driving simulator – to examine the effects of young drivers using smartphones to access facebook. In every test of driving performance, young people who were using facebook while driving were badly affected.
When sending and receiving facebook messages:
- reaction times slowed by around 38% and participants often missed key events;
- participants were unable to maintain a central lane position resulting in an increased number of unintentional lane departures; and
- were unable to respond as quickly to the car in front gradually changing speed.