No matter what the fine, people still fiddle with their phone whilst driving

As I get older I’ve come to the shuddering realisation that 90% of people in this world lack any sort of common sense. It’s the reason we have signs telling us that hot water might come out of a hot tap, or that slippery floors might cause you to, you know, slip.

In the last few years the internet, which was originally a wonderful place where you could share and learn, has become a vacuous and addictive pit of misleading click-bait articles published with an agenda of some sort. That agenda could be to make money, to change opinions, to taint referendums, to alter elections or simply to keep you coming back.

Today we all have phones to connect us to the web, we fill any tiny amount of downtime with them. On the toilet, we take our phones. In the queue at the coffee shop, we’re on our phones. At the traffic lights, we’re on the phones again. It becomes addictive, and this is exactly what every app, social media site, website and ad-maker wants.

In the video below, a cyclist has taken it upon himself, during this hot summer of 2018, to use his helmet camera and tell drivers to stop using their phone. Now, I’m a cyclist. I cycle to work and back a couple of times a week. I do charity rides etc. However, I’m also a driver. Not only that, and I’ll admit this, I’m sometimes guilty of getting distracted by my phone. I have faults and I do try to fess up to them (although my wife will probably disagree). No matter whether I’m a cyclist or a motorist, I’ve seen both parties at fault in the past, so I’m not going to say that motorists are better than cyclists or vice-versa.

But this guy, depending on what side of the fence you’re on, will either be gently reminding drivers that they shouldn’t be handling their phones, even when they’re stuck in traffic, or he’ll be invading the freedom of choice that drivers have to break the law. In this video he spots 50 people using their phones “hand held” whilst in control of a vehicle. Here in the UK, you can get 6 penalty points and a £200 fine if you use a hand-held phone when driving. You’ll also lose your licence if you passed your driving test in the last 2 years. It could also go further, with a ban or up to £1,000 fine if it goes to court.

I don’t know about you, about half-way through that video I’d already said “he’s irritating everyone” and “he’s causing aggravation for himself and the drivers” or “those people are reacting really badly”. Instead I started thinking, “Geeez, that’s a lot of people knowingly breaking the law”.

Phones make things even worse than they already are. Driving a car is dangerous. Cycling is dangerous. Even walking on a pavement is dangerous enough. Actually, let me tell you a quick story. Just a few weeks ago, I was walking my son back from school and a car mounted the pavement and drove straight towards us in order to get around oncoming traffic. She seemed shocked that I didn’t push myself up against the wall next to the path to get out of her way. My son did, but I stood in front of her car and calmly tapped her window to suggest that her manoeuvre was perhaps a little unsafe considering hundreds of kids were walking down the footpath she’d driven along. She then wound the window down, swearing loudly, stating that the driver in front had given her “no f**king choice” and I should “get out of the f**king way”. The driver in front of her had right-of-way, plus it seemed she’d not considered reversing, despite the road being clear. There was really no arguing with her as she wasn’t prepared to listen to reason.

I try to look at it positively. I like to think that, after she revved her engine and called me a “stupid bossy b***ard”, that she’d gone home, had a brew, and maybe thought, “Wow, I really messed up there today. I put lives in danger by illegally driving on the footpath while the kids were walking home. I was a plonker and the red mist descended for a moment there.”.

Sadly though, when you call someone out on something, they usually get defensive and try and weasel out of it. So in these videos, when they’ve realised their mistake, their reactions are mostly the same…

No! It’s not my fault. I’m going to blame someone else. Blame the weather. Blame an inanimate object. Blame the other driver. I’m going to shout at you instead. I’m perfect. Yeah, deep down I know it’s wrong, but everyone does it, it’s just a one off and I’m not going to admit it because I’m always right about everything. It’s nothing serious. Don’t you dare question me. Don’t interfere, let me do whatever I want regardless of whether it’s legal or safe.

Here’s another one – I’ve seen something similar to this in Manchester a few weeks ago, a guy I overtook on the M6 was steering with his wrists while sending a text, just like this…

As you can see from this last bit of footage (via a driving school) the weaving and the complete lack of attention can easily cause accidents. Sadly, when I used to drive 80+ miles daily up the M6, this was “situation normal” on the new camera-controlled “Smart Motorways”. Many believe that travelling at one strict speed is maybe a bit too boring and start fiddling with phones instead.

Note on the video below that some drivers are filling that “wait time” whilst at red traffic lights. This can cause accidents and yes – it’s still illegal – even if you’re not moving. Check this out..

The internet, social media, constant updates and an endless stream of notifications on your phone will make it tempting to use or check whilst you’re driving. Those lovely app-makers, newspaper editors, social-media creators and advertisers want you to be using your phone as much as possible, but … don’t be a dick. Arrive alive, don’t endanger others either. Leave your phone alone when you’re behind the wheel.