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Technology poses greatest driver distraction risk, says IAM

Motorists are now more worried about the dangers of distraction posed by technology and social media than drink-driving, research suggests.

The Institute of Advanced Motorist’s (IAM) first major survey into safety culture found that while technology will form a fundamental part of improving road safety, it also poses some risks.

Three-quarters (77%) of respondents say driver distraction is now a bigger problem than three years ago. This compares to just 23% of people feeling drink driving is a bigger threat than three years ago.  

Those surveyed also said that text messaging and social media are the two biggest factors threatening their personal safety, with 93% and 92% respectively claiming these to be a ‘very or somewhat serious’ threat.

The next two factors they say are threats to their personal safety are drink and drug driving, at 90% and 89% respectively. 

And, while most people feel talking on a hand-held mobile phone is unacceptable in their own locality - just 15% said they found it acceptable - some 64% say talking on a hands-free mobile phone is acceptable.

Motorists are also much more worried about speeding in residential streets than they are about speeding on motorways - 86% believing this to be a very or somewhat serious threat; 24% higher than motorways.

This is borne out by the fact 61% feel it’s acceptable to drive 10mph over the speed limit on the motorway, just 27% feel it’s acceptable to drive 5mph over the limit on a residential street.

The IAM believes the report highlights the key areas of road safety and police enforcement priority that will command the highest levels of public support.

“This report is a crucial barometer of what drivers are really thinking,” said Sarah Sillars, IAM chief executive officer.

“It is all about seeing what issues and factors the public see as important in their lives, and using that information to influence their behaviour.

“Understanding the issues drivers see as important when it comes to road safety is essential for establishing how best to communicate with them and so in turn to achieve behaviour change, on both a local and national level.

“It is up to all of us now, armed with this information, to do something about it.”

The Safety Culture Index report is a study of more than 2,000 UK motorists’ attitudes to driving safety and behaviour on our roads. 


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  • John Davis - 09/11/2015 11:14

    what about all these LCD screen to control the cars functions, I drove a Citroen Cactus the other day and found even adjusting the heating a huge distraction have to scroll through stuff on a screen when driving.

  • Judith Olsen - 09/11/2015 12:24

    I found this article by Gareth Roberts very interesting; I would like to say first of all that as a female driver working in the motor trade for 30+ years, I have been proud of my driving record and my skills actually. Everyone has always thought of me as a good driver and many members of my family, friends and customers actually have been more than complimentary on my driving ability over the years. It's only recently that I seem to be making 'little mistakes' which are frightening me to death and they all appear to be technology causes. For example I have a fairly new car, my pride and joy actually a New Mondeo which I collected in July; it's an absolute dream to drive and can't recommend it enough but having driven this model for a good 15 years now, it seems that the designers have definitely changed. Everything which we knew about Mondeo in regard to the cabin has changed and been updated; and not for the better. There are just too many switches too near each other and you can't use them without your eyes leaving the road to make sure you have your thumb on the right one. The steering wheel now offers six different switches with what I would call rocker switches for Cruise, Limiter, Volume, Voice and God only knows what else. I was stopped by a Police man the other night for going over the white line - all I did was look down for a second to make sure I had my thumb on the radio volume button and hey presto I'm in the middle of the road. These switches by the way are on top of the menu buttons on the middle of the wheel. They all have up and down and left and right buttons too but at least you can feel your way around them. I love my car, I've worked within Ford dealerships for 30 years and I wouldn't want anyone to think badly of this new car because it really is a fantastic car but I find myself using the volume knob on the dashboard because it's just too dangerous to try to search for the right switch on the steering wheel. I couldn't agree more with Gareth's report above; I've always been a careful driver, I always try to drive within the law, I don't use a hand held mobile while driving and I also set my sat nav journey before I leave but to make the technology worse, they've now also included the heater controls in the touchscreen (along with phone, navigation and something else which I can't remember because I never use it). Surely heater/climate controls should be as simple as possible to make sure that a limited involvement is needed from the driver to adjust the cabin temperature. I hate making these little mistakes driving; I've never been pulled by the police before and I've never made so many errors either. I think it's time we put a stop on everything being touchscreen and moved back to having a few little left and right turning knobs in the car (as old fashioned as that may seem).

  • Ron Moss - 09/11/2015 12:46

    Great comments from both Judith and John, are all these controls that at the moment sometimes difficult to use whilst driving just a prelude for driverless cars when we will have all the time in the world to make various adjustments, watch a DVD catch up with emails etc.

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