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Drivers and hand-held cell phones: Extending the ban will not resolve the issue – here is why


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The legal guidelines round cell phone use whereas driving are to be tightened beneath new UK government plans to make any use of a hand-held telephone unlawful. From 2022, cell phone regulation can be prolonged to cowl taking pictures or movies, scrolling by way of playlists or enjoying video games whereas driving or stationary, say, at a visitors mild. Use of a cell phone ‘hands-free’, nevertheless, will nonetheless be allowed—though analysis exhibits it’s equally distracting.

Currently, UK drivers utilizing a hand-held cell phone can solely be prosecuted if it may be confirmed that they have been utilizing it for an “interactive communicative function” corresponding to calling or texting. The change within the regulation closes this loophole, and makes it simpler for distracted drivers to be prosecuted, fined £200, and given six factors on their licence.

According to the UK government, 81% of people that responded to its session supported the transfer. This aligns with findings from roadside breakdown group RAC, whose annual report on motoring frequently exhibits that by different drivers is a high concern for motorists.

But data also shows that many drivers who declare to help the regulation however proceed to make use of their telephones whereas behind the wheel. One survey discovered that greater than 1 / 4 of drivers admitted to hand-held cell phone use, at the least sometimes.

So why do drivers who help the regulation, and acknowledge the hazards of distracted driving, nonetheless use their telephones? The reply partly lies in driver attitudes and biases.

What the proof tells us

Research consistently shows that the majority drivers take into account themselves to be above common at driving. Statistically talking, after all, that is extremely unlikely. But this “ bias” provides drivers a rationale for believing their cell phone use is secure, whereas condemning others for doing the identical factor.

Phone-using drivers justify their behaviour by claiming they’re ready to modify their cell phone use depending on the driving scenario, corresponding to limiting use on busy roads. They imagine they’re able to multitask and mitigate the risk in a approach that different drivers can not.

Drivers with self-enhancement bias additionally typically reveal “crash risk optimism“—judging themselves to be at decrease danger of a crash in comparison with different drivers.

In a way, each journey a self-perceived above-average driver efficiently completes whereas utilizing a cell phone seems to verify to them that their behaviour is acceptable, and the regulation is aimed toward different drivers. This helps to elucidate why sturdy help for a tightened regulation on this space can coexist with of offending.

Education campaigns that, for instance, characteristic deadly or critical collisions brought on by a distracted driver can really play into these biases. Such campaigns seem to verify drivers’ perception that they will deal with it, whereas these different “inferior” drivers couldn’t.

For these over-confident drivers, maybe the one deterrent could be the specter of enforcement. But in recent times, numbers of devoted roads-policing officers within the UK have declined, and the general public has, apparently, observed. In one survey, 54% of respondents felt they have been unlikely to be caught or punished for utilizing a hand-held cell phone whereas driving.

This mixture of circumstances makes it very tough to steer drivers that they should not use their cell phones behind the wheel. If a driver thinks they will safely multitask whereas additionally avoiding prosecution, what’s stopping them?

We want to alter attitudes

The tightening of the regulation could assist to encourage some drivers to consider their telephone use, however it appears unlikely it can resolve the issue of cell use amongst drivers, and eradicate the hurt it causes.

In a broader sense, adjustments to the regulation won’t ever be capable to preserve tempo with new applied sciences. In-vehicle distractions, corresponding to interactive screens on the dashboard and digital assistants like Alexa, are creating extra rapidly than the regulation can sustain with.

If we need to cut back the number of people killed and significantly injured every year by drivers utilizing their cell phones, we have now to persuade drivers to not do it no matter whether or not or not they will get caught.

We have to problem the narratives that drivers frequently deploy to justify their behaviour, and deal with driver biases head-on by offering schooling, primarily based on psychological proof, that is more durable for drivers to withstand or deny. Interactive education, which permits to expertise their very own distraction, slightly than listening to in regards to the failures of others, could be an excellent place to begin.

If we do not deal with driver attitudes, we can’t meaningfully deal with driver distraction, no matter what the regulation says.


Why some drivers slow down when using mobile phones


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Drivers and hand-held cell phones: Extending the ban will not resolve the issue – here is why (2021, November 26)
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