/ Motoring, Technology

Driven to distraction – the dangers of texting at the wheel

If you were ever in doubt that it wasn’t a good idea to text behind the wheel, we took to a simulator to test mobile-use while driving. You might be surprised by how we got on…

To find out just how dangerous it is to text and drive, myself and two colleagues went along to the Transport Research Lab in Berkshire to have a drive in its simulator.

We drove while using a hands-free mobile phone, a handheld mobile, and also at the legal alcohol limit to compare the level of distraction caused by each.

Calling and texting behind the wheel

I don’t have a hands-free phone kit in my own car, but I was still shocked at just how difficult it was to drive while having a demanding conversation – even with both hands on the wheel.

But that was nothing compared with trying to negotiate a winding road while sending a text on a handheld mobile. I veered off the road two or three times and found it impossible to maintain a constant speed. The fact that my colleague lost control of the car and crashed was all I needed to convince me that I will never pick up my mobile while driving again.

As for driving with alcohol in my system – everyone has different tolerances, but it was pretty scary and I felt too drunk to drive even at the legal alcohol limit. Check out how we got on while driving under each of these circumstances in our video:

Should offenders be educated?

Our conversations with the police, which formed another part of this investigation, drove home that it would be beneficial if regional police forces offered educational courses for offenders.

To me, being shown the potential consequences of breaking the law could be miles more compelling than a fixed-penalty fine. Yet, only 11 of the UK’s forces offer this option – are educational courses for offenders something you’d like to see introduced across the country?

From the difficulty we had driving while texting in our investigation, I also wonder how much handheld mobile-use is contributing to road deaths. Road deaths rose by 3% in 2011 – the first increase in nearly a decade.

So, should mobile-use while driving be a road safety priority? If it was taken as seriously as seatbelts and child car seats have been over the past decades, perhaps all drivers would soon realise they can’t – and should not – get away with calling or texting while driving.

Should mobile-use while driving be a higher road safety priority?

Yes – police should do more to target mobile phone offenders (89%, 412 Votes)

No – police are doing enough to target mobile phone offenders (11%, 53 Votes)

Total Voters: 471

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