What Can Wait?
Sussex Safer Roads Partnership is highlighting the dangers of being distracted by your mobile phone with a new campaign entitled "It Can Wait". We are raising awareness that nothing is more important than focussing on driving - and driving alone. When you consider what using your phone behind the wheel could result in, there is no question in what the safest option is. The phrase "It Can Wait" relates to this, suggesting that whatever is happening on your mobile - be it a phone call, a text, something from social media - none of it is as important as getting to your destination in one piece. Dedicate the time to driving that driving really requires. Whatever your phone is doing, it can wait until after.
Currently, the penalties for using your phone whilst driving is a £100 fine and three points on your driving licence. Last year, the government conducted a consultation with the public as to what they thought about these consequences - and the results were greatly encouraging for safety. Read the report here. Although these are still just proposals by the government, it is expected that the penalties will be increased this year, to £200 and six points. This last part should be particularly of note to drivers who have not held their licence for a long time: if you acquire six points on your licence within two years of obtaining your full one, you will lose it.
But it's not just about the fine and the points. We are urging drivers to ignore their phone - more than anything - for safety. There have been a lot of high-profile cases recently where drivers have been convicted after killing or seriously injuring fellow road users, like the case last year with Tomasz Kroker. The full story is available here, but it does contain some upsetting footage.
Tomasz Kroker was using his mobile phone to change the music in his car. How technology has changed so quickly in the 21st century means we use our phones to do everything. But it can't drive a car for you, and it certainly can't stop you from crashing. It hinders your concerntration on the road hugely. Consider what driving was like before mobile phones were ubiquitous. Or, for the younger generation, consider how calm life is when you're not glued to your phone.
Whether it's the idea of points on your licence, having less money one month due to a fine, or the safety aspect that hooks you into not using your mobile behind the wheel - remember, whatever it is really can wait.
What Can You Do?
The law states that you can only use a hand-held mobile phone when you are the driver if you need to call 999 or 112. Other than that, you can only use a hand-held device if you are safely parked. You cannot use it when you are stopped at traffic lights or queueing in traffic. Whilst the law does allow for hands-free kits to be used in cars, SSRP does not encourage the use of these as if the police think you are distracted by your phone (or other in-car technology), they can deem you not in proper control of the vehicle. A case in Sussex in 2015 where a delivery driver was checking his next-day schedule on his e-POD device (instead of looking at the road ahead) resulted in a crash where the victim was seriously injured. The victim has had their entire life changed from this - and it was caused by a hands-free device, proving it does not have to be hand-held to cause a collision.
Read the full law here.
So - how do you go about ignoring your phone for the duration of a journey?
- Switch it to silent to stop yourself being distracted by it.
- Better still, switch it off altogether.
- Place it in the glove compartment.
- Or, better still, the boot.
- If you know you may be receiving a call, inform the caller ahead of time that you may not be available.
- Ensure you have your answerphone message sorted so the caller can leave you one.
This list is not set to be patronsing, it is set to save lives. These are simple ideas that, due to changes in technology, may have become lost as they are so easy to abid by. Easy, but essential.
There is good news for the people of Sussex who get increasingly wound-up by seeing other drivers on their mobiles. All incidences can be sent to Operation Crackdown, Sussex Police's reporting tool for anti-social driving. Depending on the seriousness of the event, the driver may receive a warning letter, or a visit from the police. Through Operation Crackdown, we can make mobile phones behind the wheel everyone's issue.
In addition, we are asking road users to spread the message to friends and family. If someone's driving makes you feel uncomfortable as the passenger, say so. If they insist on using their mobile phone whilst driving, don't get in the car with them. These may sound like very difficult social situations to put yourself in - and they are - but anything is worth not risking your life or those of others when using the phone could be avoided.
Remember - nothing is so important that it really can't wait for you to stop driving.