Analysis of the driving behaviour of more than 4,300 motorists over a period of 18 months has revealed for the first time, the direct impact mobile phone use at the wheel has on the risk of an accident – whether hand held or hands free. Analysing speed, road type and hard braking activity when they are using a mobile phone, Wunelli, a LexisNexis Risk Solutions company, with insurance broker Drivology has found that drivers who use a phone hand held at the wheel almost double their risk of an accident as hard braking increases by three quarters (75%), while those on hands free increase their risk by a fifth.
Hard braking, measured by Wunelli as a G-force which is enough to propel a handbag on the front seat into the foot well, is a strong indication of driver distraction and has been proven to have a direct correlation with car accidents. Wunelli has established that an average driver will hard brake once every 50 miles. If he/she is on a mobile phone, hard braking almost doubles.
Men use their mobile at the wheel almost double the time women do and motorists between the ages of 25-35 put themselves at most risk of danger by using their mobile phone hand held at the wheel more than any other age group analysed. Despite the obvious risks, a quarter of calls taken or made in the car are done illegally hand held, and most of these calls are on lower speed, built up roads (40mph or under). This may be a key factor in these roads having 11 times more accidents than motorways.
Wunelli’s analysis also found average vehicle speed decreases a third when drivers are on a call (not on hands free), a further reflection of the level of distraction drivers have when they are using a mobile phone.
The findings have been revealed as the Government gathers evidence as part of a public consultation on stricter penalties for using a hand held mobile phone whilst driving. This latest body of research from Wunelli, a LexisNexis Risk Solutions company, shows, for the first time, exactly how driving behaviour is affected when motorists use their phone at the wheel, whether hand held or hands free and suggests that hands free mobile phone calls while not as dangerous as hand held, should be strongly discouraged to support safer driving.
Paul Stacy, Founding Director for Wunelli, said: “Driving a car is the most dangerous activity most people will ever do. Based on Government data, over an average life-time every person will have eight friends or family members injured in a traffic accident and at least one killed or seriously injured. So why do people make a dangerous activity like driving more risky by using their smartphones? The fact that we all started to use phones in our cars 10 years before the Government in the UK banned use while driving, means we need re-think our attitude to mobile phone use, and mute the mobile when we make a journey.
“This data comes from telematics smartphone devices. Telematics policies reward good driving and provide feedback to drivers on the risks they face. The benefits to safer driving are significant so it would be a positive step if the UK Government encouraged more telematics policies by making them exempt from Insurance Premium Tax (IPT) rather than further increasing the cost of insurance, through the 0.5% hike announced in the March Budget, bringing IPT to 10%. We think the societal benefits would far out weight the loss in tax revenues.”
Kevin Clinton, head of road safety at the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA), said: “This is yet more evidence of the danger of using a mobile phone while driving. Drivers who use a phone, whether it’s hand-held or hands-free, are much less aware of what’s happening on the road around them, react more slowly and take longer to stop. It substantially increases the risk of crashing, and injuring or even killing an innocent person. Drivers should switch off their phones while driving, and return calls and texts when they have stopped in a safe place.
“Wunelli’s research also demonstrates the benefits of telematics, which can show drivers aspects of their driving that could be improved, when they might not even realise this, to reduce their risk and keep their insurance costs down.”