Drivers now browsing social media at the wheel too

People will do things they’re not supposed to sometimes. It’s a fact. We get told not to do something but there’s always going to be a certain majority that’ll go ahead and do it anyway.

Don’t drive in the centre lane of a motorway when the lane to your left is clear.
People do it daily.

Don’t drive over 70mph on the motorway.
People do it daily.

Don’t download movies illegally.
People do it daily.

On a recent trip to the US I saw one person driving to work on the interstate who was flicking through a stack of paperwork on his steering wheel. Here in the UK I’ve seen people reading books while sat behind trucks in lane one of the motorway. It happens.

Drivers now browsing social media at the wheel too

Now, we’ve all heard the horror stories. We know that some truck drivers watch movies on their laptops whilst driving, and we know that the police can find out if you’ve been texting before an accident happens.

However, today the Department for Transport has revealed the findings of a study into “compliance” of the law which prevents you using a hand-held phone while driving. In the UK it’s illegal to do this and you can face a fixed penalty notice (three penalty points on your licence) and a fine of £100. You can also get disqualified and receive a fine of up to £1000 if the case goes to court. The DfT went to 60 sites in five areas of England and 30 locations in Scotland last October to check whether this was being adhered to.

This is something I’m sure we’ve all thought about doing or done, perhaps whilst sat in traffic waiting for traffic lights to change. The figures seemed to be fairly small, with 1.1% of drivers actually holding a mobile whilst 0.5% had it to their ear. Van drivers seemed to be the worst offenders, with 2.7% using their mobile.

Perhaps more worryingly, the DfT researchers found that…

(Although) it was not possible for observers to determine what the mobile phone was being used for, (monitoring) suggests that most mobile phone usage whilst driving was for the purposes of sending or receiving a text or using social media rather than making a call.

Basically put, it’s not just texting or calling that’s causing the trouble on the roads. People can use hands-free kit quite legally, sure, but now there’s a temptation to check what your friends are doing on Facebook whilst driving. That’s not only bad in terms of safety, but it’s also difficult for the police to determine the cause of an accident. As an example, if a car ploughed into the back someone and mobile network data showed that it was using the internet at the time, could that just be background data (like collecting email / receiving map updates etc) or the driver being distracted while checking Facebook?

If those who have traditionally caused accidents after being distracted by text messages are now being distracted by Whatsapp, Google Hangouts, Twitter or Facebook; then we need to increase data and handset monitoring to determine if the phone is being used interactively on the internet.

Either way, with massive cuts to our police and a huge reduction in traffic officers, there’s hardly anyone to enforce laws like this on the road.