The dangers posed by distracted drivers have been well documented, with many road users such as pedestrians, cyclists and motorbike riders caught up in accidents caused by a driver’s lack of attention.
It is widely acknowledged that one of the main causes of distracted driving is mobile phone use behind the wheel. Although it is illegal to use a mobile phone without a hands-free set when driving, many drivers still choose to do so. Only last month, the BBC reported that around 6,000 drivers were caught committing this offence over a four week period.
Road safety charity Brake, which has frequently campaigned on the dangers of distracted driving, highlights that driving is a highly unpredictable and risky activity and requires full concentration at all times. Drivers who divide their attention between their phone and the road are significantly increasing their risk of causing a devastating crash.
According to Brake, a study of in-vehicle video footage estimated that one in five (22%) of road crashes could be caused, at least in part, by driver distraction. It also showed that drivers who perform a secondary task at the wheel are two to three times more likely to crash.
Road safety organisations have therefore welcomed the news that the latest IOS software update from Apple will include a new "Do Not Disturb While Driving" mode for iPhones. The new feature will detect when someone is driving and turn off all notifications, as well as setting an automatic text response to notify friends and family when the driver is behind the wheel.
"This new feature is to be welcomed and will help drivers stay focused on the road and not their phones,” commented Jason Wakeford, spokesman for Brake. “Mobile use behind the wheel is a growing menace and so Brake would like to see similar initiatives from other phone manufactures to help cut distractions in the car.”
"Advances in technology must also be accompanied by rigorous enforcement and tougher penalties for those who flout the law,” he added. “Traffic policing should be made a national priority, to ensure that drivers have the expectation that if they use a mobile phone behind the wheel, they will be caught and punished."
The RAC has also welcomed the announcement by Apple.
“These days it is less phone calls and more the pings and buzzes of texts and social media apps that have the potential to distract a driver from the task at hand,” explained Pete Williams, spokesman for the RAC’s Be Phone Smart campaign. “So we’re pleased that at last millions of drivers that use an Apple iPhone are about to be able to put an end to intrusive notifications while they’re behind the wheel.”
“Apple took out a series of patents more than three years ago designed to address the issue of driver safety, so while this new feature has been rather a long time coming it’s a positive step that the majority of drivers with an iOS device will be able to benefit from it by the autumn,” he added.
The RAC has called on iPhone users to download the free update when it is available and is also urging all drivers to make a personal pledge not to use their handheld phones while driving.
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