21% rise in accidents where driver was using mobile phone

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A study published by the RAC suggests that there is 21% rise in accidents where the driver was using a mobile phone.The RAC is re-stating its call on the Government to raise awareness of the dangers of texting or taking a call at the wheel with a hand-held phone, as new figures released this week show the number of accidents where a mobile phone contributed to the cause has risen by 21% since 2010.

The latest statistics from the Department for Transport analysing the contributing factors for accidents on the nation’s roads in 2013* show that overall there has been a 10% decrease in incidents reported to the police from 2010 to 2013.

Figures show that last year there were 108,934 accidents dealt with by the police, compared to 120,827 in 2010. And, the positive news for road safety campaigners is that the number of fatalities has also gone down from 1,620 in 2010, to 1,486 in 2013 – a fall of 8%.

However, the number of accidents where a mobile phone was being used by the driver has increased significantly by 21% in the same period – 349 in 2010 to 422 in 2013. The statistics also show there were more accidents involving drivers ‘being in a hurry’ in 2013 than 2012 (18,167 in 2013 and 17,847 in 2012, or 2% increase).

The RAC says the official figures reflect motorists’ concerns about the use of hand-held mobile phones as highlighted in its RAC Report on Motoring 2014, which found more than a third (34%) say they worry about other drivers being distracted by their hand-held mobile phones while behind the wheel.

The Report on Motoring also found three quarters (75%) of motorists report regularly observing other people chatting on their hand-held mobile phones while driving. However, just 8% of motorists admit to doing it themselves, suggesting the underlying issue is the social acceptability of using a mobile phone at the wheel.

RAC chief engineer David Bizley said the trend of rising numbers of accidents involving mobile phones being used at the wheel will only be reversed when it becomes as unacceptable as drink-driving.

He said: “In light of these figures from the Department for Transport, we are reiterating the statement we made in our Report on Motoring 2014, by calling on the police to enforce the current laws on the use of hand-held phones while driving more effectively.”

“This must be supported by a high-profile, government-funded road safety campaign that makes using a hand-held mobile phone at the wheel as socially unacceptable as drink driving.”

“A report by the Transport Research Laboratory in June this year demonstrated that talking on a hand-held phone while driving causes a 46% reduction in reaction speeds, compared to 13% for drivers drinking to the legal limit. This is extremely compelling and puts into perspective the dangers of using a phone while driving.”

“We feel there is currently a high level of acceptability which is something both this government, and the next administration that takes over in May 2015, needs to address as a matter of urgency if we are to prevent the number of accidents continuing to rise.”

* Department for Transport Contributory factors in reported accidents by severity, Great Britain, 2013 – RAS50001. Last updated: 25 September 2014

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