Following increased penalties for using phones while driving, what more can be done to solve this problem?
Last week the government’s planned increased penalty for using mobile phones while driving came into effect. Under the new, tougher laws, drivers risk 6 points on their license and a £200 fine. The changes are in response to a 2016 RAC report, which suggested approximately 11 million motorists admitted to using their phone while driving in the prior 12 months. The new laws also aim to deter repeat offenders. Driver’s who have previously been caught on the phone will face a £1000 fine and a 6-month ban.
But will the increased penalties really help reduce the use of phones while driving? Research carried out on the effect of deterrents on driving habits would suggest no. While most drivers are aware of the risk, the perceived chance of being caught is so low that very few change their behaviour. Deterrents are particularly ineffective for crimes which drivers see as “socially acceptable”. And the same RAC report that prompted the increased penalties suggests that people are becoming increasingly accepting of using the phone while driving. Hopefully, the increased penalties can help change public perceptions on driving behaviour. In the meantime, technology may provide a helping hand.
Improved Speed Cameras
One way technology might help is by increasing the risk of being caught. American tech company Movidius is working in partnership with Hikvision, a Chinese surveillance company, to increase the number of offences that can be caught by speed cameras. Among other things, using phones while driving will be on the list. The new cameras will also have artificial intelligence. This means the cameras will be able to detect offences without sending data to a remote server.
This solution, however, may run into the same perception problems as increased penalties. A study into speeding found that people only felt the risk of detection after they’ve already been caught. And even then, stated the increased risk did not change their driving.
Another solution is to simply make it impossible to use your phone while driving. The Department for Transport is reportedly considering this option. The software would work similarly to aeroplane mode, blocking cellular and internet signal to phones while driving. This would mean drivers could no longer send/receive texts, browse online or make calls.
While seemingly simple, this solution raises a number of potential issues. Firstly, how would the software be enabled? If it’s a manual choice, like aeroplane mode, drivers could simply ignore the new tech. And if the software kicks in automatically, there would need to be an override for passengers. In which case, what’s there to stop drivers simply disabling the software?
Another issue is knowing what to block. Most navigation apps now require both internet and GPS signal. This is to provide live traffic updates as well as a route. If the software blocked internet connectivity, apps could no longer provide traffic information. The alternative is to have the app block specific internet enabled apps. This could cover social media, messaging and email without interfering with navigation. However, the decision to enable specific apps would most likely fall to the driver. Again, this means they could simply enable whatever they want.
The reality is that until the public perception of using phones while driving changes, people will keep offending. The hope is that the increased penalty combined with potential technological aids will cause a cultural shift. Victims’ Commissioner Baroness Newlove stated, “It is time to make using a mobile phone while driving just as unacceptable as not wearing a seat belt or drink-driving.” With the law now presenting using phones while driving as a severe and dangerous offence, public option will hopefully follow.
Car manufacturers are also doing their bit to help. Hands-free, mobile integration like ApplePlay and internet connectivity in media commanders are all becoming common features in new cars. Both the Mazda and Suzuki ranges offer a variety of connectivity options on all their models. To find out more, contact our sales teams today. For Mazda they’re based in Weybridge, Surrey, Bookham, Surrey and Orpingtion, Kent. And for Suzuki visit our showroom in Effingham, Surrey.