Research shows that using a smartphone behind the wheel causes slower reaction times than when under influence of alcohol or drugs
Social networking or emailing with a smartphone while driving could be more dangerous than driving while under the influence of alcohol or cannabis, research has revealed.
In a study conducted by the Institute of Advanced Motorists, participants using DigiCar – the Transport Research Laboratory’s (TRL) car simulator – showed 37.6 percent slower reaction times to road events when sending and receiving Facebook messages.
This compared to 37.4 percent slower reaction times while texting, 26.5 percent while having a hands-free phone conversation, 21 per cent while under the influence of cannabis and 12.5 percent while at the legal limit for alcohol.
The results are concerning as approximately 3.5 million license holders – eight percent of drivers – admit to using their smartphones while driving. More worryingly, 24 percent of drivers between 17 and 24 years old, a group at a higher risk of accidents, admit the same.
“Our research clearly demonstrates that driver behaviour was significantly and dramatically impaired when a smartphone was being used for social networking,” said TRL senior researcher, Nick Reed. “Drivers spent more time looking at their phone than the road ahead when trying to send messages, rendering the driver blind to emerging hazards and the developing traffic situation. Even when hazards were detected, the driver’s ability to respond was slowed.”
The IAM said that it wants the government, phone makers and social networks to highlight the dangers of using smartphones while driving to users. The organisation claims that a concentrated effort could produce an impact on the public similar to the change in attitudes to seat belts and drink-driving.
“Young people have grown up with smartphones and using them is part of everyday life,” said Simon Best, chief executive of the IAM. “But more work needs to be done by the government and social network providers to show young people that they are risking their lives and the lives of others if they use their smartphones while driving.”
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