Driving Selfies – More dangerous than drink-driving

27th July 2015

The UK’s leading independent road safety, the Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM), recently surveyed 500 drivers to determine the extent that drivers are using their mobile phones and tablets to take selfies, make video calls and watch videos while driving.

Shockingly, nearly one in ten (9%) of those surveyed admitted to taking a selfie whilst driving in the last month.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, younger drivers were the main culprits, with 15% of 18-24 year olds confessing to taking snaps behind the wheel. However, it was actually the 25-34 age group who were the biggest offenders - with 19% confessing to taking a ‘driving selfie’ in the last month.

Another interesting observation was that men were more likely to offend than women, with 12% of men admitting to taking selfies at the wheel, compared to just 5% of women.

Video calling at the wheel

A staggering 8% of drivers surveyed admitted to driving while using a video-calling application such as FaceTime and Skype, this figure doubled amongst the 18-24 year old age range.

CEO, Sarah Sillars said “Everyone knows how dangerous using a smartphone or tablet is while driving. That’s why it’s shocking to see new trends like taking selfies and making video calls becoming common practice”. “Safe driving is everyone’s responsibility and more must be done to catch drivers using these devices dangerously by increasing the fines and points for smartphone and tablet use at the wheel – there is simply no excuse”.

“Campaigns must also be introduced that raise awareness of the prevalence of the issue in society and make this behaviour socially unacceptable as drink-driving”.

The video below shows two girls recording an impromptu karaoke session in the car, in which the driver clearly takes her hands of the wheel and her eyes off the road, resulting in an inevitable collision.

More dangerous than alcohol or drugs

A previous study from 2012 by the IAM revealed that driving whilst using a smartphone is more dangerous than driving at the legal alcohol limit and when using cannabis. It found that reaction times were slower, with drivers less able to adapt to even slowly changing circumstances. Participants also struggled to stay in the correct lane while using smartphone devices.

Head of driving standards at the IAM, Peter Rodger, explained that a vehicle can travel 170ft at 60mph if a driver takes their eyes off the road for as little as two seconds.

Speaking to the Independent, he said: “We tend to underestimate how much involvement we need to have when driving in order to do it safely and reasonably.”

“If you're busy taking a selfie, you're looking at where the camera is, you're looking at what the image might be. That means you're not looking where you're going. It really is that simple. And... not looking where you're going puts you into the kind of level of performance that would get you arrested for drinking and driving.”

He added: “If you're not looking where you're going, you're not going to see what you're going to crash into. If you're drinking and driving, you might actually see if before you crash into it. Where's the difference? You crash.”

Other findings

7% of drivers admitted to watching videos and catch-up TV services on the roads. This figure climbs to 13% amongst 18-24 year olds, and to 15% amongst 25-32 year olds.

18% accessed the internet while driving, rising to 27% for 18-24s and 34% for 25-34 year olds.

Despite these shocking figures, the number of drivers issued with penalty points for using mobile devices fell by more than 40% in 2014.

Related article: Should the UK Graduated Driving Licensing for Young Drivers?

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