A new congestion-alert service aimed at company drivers and commuters has been criticised for sending text alerts to drivers’ mobile phones.
Users of the new service from Trafficmaster input their routes into their mobile phone and then receive text messages alerting them of any traffic delays on their specified routes.
Trafficmaster point out that there is an option to receive alerts only at predetermined times – such as before the user sets off for work.
However, drivers may set the system to send texts throughout their entire journey, meaning their mobile phone can receive up to 20 traffic alerts while they are driving.
As Steve Johnson director of communications at DriveTech points out, this may be a temptation too far.
“Given human nature, it’s too much of a temptation to allow update texts to continue coming in during the journey.
"Is the driver then going to ignore them?
"I don’t think so; even half a second looking at a text rather than the road could cause a crash and under the new law that could mean a jail term if severe injury or fatalities occur,” he warned.
“Although the new product should save time and money and reduce driver stress, it is crucial that drivers use the system responsibly.
"Even though messages can be programmed to only arrive before the journey start, I have my doubts that the majority of business drivers, who are already under enough pressure, would defer to this option.”
Fleet managers who allow their drivers to use the service must stress that it is illegal for them to read text messages or use hand-held phones while driving.
“Driver distraction from mobile phone calls and texts is a proven risk factor, so the system would need to be set up in-line with legal requirements and company policy on mobile phone use.
"Drivers should definitely not be reading texts while driving,” explained Dr Will Murray, research director for Interactive Driving Systems.
“The best way for organisations to reduce congestion, improve safety and reduce fuel costs is through better journey scheduling to minimise the need to travel and smarter ways of working.
"Minimising the need to travel through smarter working is, by some distance, the best approach to cutting congestion.”
In response to the criticism, a Trafficmaster spokesman said: “The service is designed to provide commuters with delay information on their route before they start their journey.
"Our customers appreciate that the ideal time to receive delay data on their commute is before they set off for the workplace or home.”