A coalition of road charities and organisations is urging Android, Microsoft and the GSMA (Groupe Spéciale Mobile Association) to include an 'opt out' driving mode as standard across mobile handsets.
Brake and the RAC’s Be Phone Smart campaign, together with Brighton and Hove City Council, the Parliamentary Advisory Council on Transport Safety, RED Driving School, Road Safety GB and RoadPeace warn that technology to automatically prevent distracting alerts while driving is needed to tackle the needless deaths and serious injuries caused by drivers using handheld mobile phones behind the wheel.
The letter comes ahead of Apple's expected release this week of its iOS 11 system update, which will include a 'Do Not Disturb While Driving' mode that detects when someone is driving and turns off calls, text messages and notifications.
In the letter, the coalition urges Android and Microsoft to follow suit, pledging to roll out an opt-out driving mode in their next updates which will:
- Automatically, as a default setting, switch on when sensors in the handset detect the user is driving
- Turn the screen blank and suspend any push notifications
- Be able to send automatic replies via SMS to anyone contacting the user to inform them that they are driving
- Only permit the handset to be used in conjunction with a hands-free device when enabled
- Provide evidence that the phone was in ‘drive safe’ mode – potentially leading to reduced insurance premiums.
The group says the illegal use of handheld mobile phones at the wheel is now at epidemic proportions, with an estimated 11 million UK motorists admitting to making or receiving a call while driving and five million saying they have taken photos or videos while at the wheel of a moving vehicle.
Brake Director of Campaigns, Jason Wakeford, said: “The illegal use of handheld mobile phones when driving is a growing menace and a major threat to road safety. Research shows that using a phone at the wheel affects reaction times as much as drink driving, increasing the chances of a crash.
Department for Transport statistics show that 22 people were killed and 99 were seriously injured in incidents where a driver was using their handheld phone behind the wheel in 2015.
The coalition concludes its letter by stating that "no call, text or social media update is worth risking a life" and that the mobile phone industry has "a major part to play in reducing the distraction caused by phones in the car", reducing deaths and serious injuries across the globe.
RAC Be Phone Smart spokesman Pete Williams said: “We need organisations to work together and to come up with creative ways of helping drivers realise that no text or tweet while driving is worth the risk.”