Driver Distraction

Driver Distraction

How Effective?

  • Enforcement: The law is very clear on the consequences of the use of handheld phones, satnavs and 2-way radios by drivers, however it is less clear about the acceptable use of hands-free phones, satnavs and 2-way radios. There is no formal guidance on the legal consequences of driving whilst distracted, although it is likely this would be seen as a form of driving without due care and attention, or dangerous driving.

  • Handheld: It states that “It’s illegal to ride a motorcycle or drive using hand-held phones or similar devices.” If drivers are given a fixed

    penalty notice they will fine of £100 and three penalty points. New drivers (up to two years after gaining a full licence) will lose their licence and be given six penalty points. The only times when it is permissible to use your phone when driving is to call 999 or 112 in an emergency, of if your vehicle is parked.

  • Hands-free: You can use hands-free phones, sat navs and 2-way radios when you’re driving or riding. But if the police think you’re distracted and not in control of your vehicle you could still get stopped and penalised.

  • Publicity/Education: Public awareness of the hazards of using your mobile phone whilst driving have been increased through information campaigns. However, these campaigns tend to be focused on a single source of distraction, and this is usually mobile phones, rather than the broader issue of driver distraction.

    • The THINK! Campaign offers a good summary of the issues surrounding driver driving whilst using a mobile and in particular advice on how to avoid being distracted by a mobile phone.

    • The facts:

      • Studies show that drivers using a hands-free or handheld mobile phone are slower at recognising and reacting to hazards.

      • Even careful drivers can be distracted by a call or text – and a split-second lapse in concentration could result in a crash.

    • The law:

      • It's illegal to use a handheld mobile when driving.

      • This includes using your mobile phone to follow a map, read a text or check social media. This applies even if you’re stopped at traffic lights or queuing in traffic.

      • You can only use a handheld phone if you are safely parked or need to call 999 or 112 in an emergency and it’s unsafe or impractical to stop.

      • If you’re caught using a handheld phone while driving, you’ll get 3 penalty points on your licence and a fine of £100. Points on your licence will result in higher insurance costs.

      • If you get just 6 points in the first two years after passing your test, you will lose your licence.

      • You may use a hands-free phone while driving but you can still be prosecuted if you’re not in proper control of your vehicle. The

        penalties are same as being caught using a handheld phone.

      • The penalties for driving carelessly or dangerously when using a handheld or hands-free phone can include disqualification, a large fine and up to two years imprisonment

    • The advice:

      • Switch off before you drive off

      • Even if you’re using a hands-free phone you should avoid making or answering calls when driving

      • All phone calls distract drivers' attention from the road.

      • Park safe

        ly before using your mobile phone

      • Do not park on the hard shoulder of the motorway.

      • Don't call other people when they're driving

      • If you call someone and they tell you they are driving, ask them to call you back when they have parked up safely.

    • The effectiveness of the 2007 THINK! campaign to raise awareness of the change in legislation regarding the use of mobile phones whilst driving was measured (Post evaluation of June 2009 Mobile Phone campaign, 2009;

      • 1,998 interviews were conducted with those aged 15+ in England and Wales in 2009.

      • Two thirds of respondents (61%) recalled seeing or hearing something about using mobile phones whilst driving in any campaign source. Over half had seen a TV ad (54%), while fewer had heard something on a radio ad (16%).

      • Overall campaign awareness – steady decline since the high level of awareness achieved at the original post stage of research conducted in April 2007

    • Driving for work: Those who drive for work are under particular pressures to use their mobile phones whilst driving. ROSPA recognise this and have produced an informative document to address this issue called “Driving for work: Mobile phones” (

      • HSE Guidelines for employers, ‘Driving at Work’, state that “health and safety law applies to on-the-road work activities as to all work activities and the risks should be effectively managed within a health and safety system”.

      • Research indicates that drivers who use their mobile phones are also four times more likely to crash, injuring or killing themselves

        and/or other people.

      • What employers should do: Expect safe driving; Consult staff; Raise awareness; Avoid using a mobile phone; Lead by example;

        Review work practices; Review and investigate crashes and incidents; Provide training; Liaise with police; Monitor compliance; Liaise with other organisations.

    • General countermeasures: In addition to the countermeasures listed above (see THINK! campaign above and ROSPA “Driving for work: Mobile Phones”) several documents have been published by a range of organisation offering general guidance on dealing with driver distraction.

    • The Monash University Accident Research Centre published a review entitled “Driver distraction: a review of the literature” ( which not only provides a summary of driver distraction literature, but also lists countermeasures for reducing driver distraction which includes information on research, legislation and enforcement, vehicle design and enforcement.

      • A good deal is already known about the risks associated with engaging whilst driving in various distracting activities. It is important that these are brought to the attention of drivers and passengers. As a matter of priority, it is important to make the

        motoring public aware that hands-free mobile phones can be just as distracting as hand-held phones.

      • As with the use of mobile phones, drivers must be educated and trained in the optimal manner in which to interact with existing and emerging on-board technologies and services accessed through portable devices in order to minimise distraction.

      • Where flexibility exists in the manner in which these devices can be operated (there are, for example, many ways to tune and select a radio station), user manuals and tutorials provided by vehicle manufacturers and service providers should highlight the

        most ergonomic and least distracting methods for doing so.

    • In the USA, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) have published “strategies to reduce distracted and fatigued driving – countermeasures”. The effectiveness of a range of countermeasures are described. (


      • The standard behavioral countermeasures of laws, enforcement, and sanctions, which are used successfully for alcohol impairment, safety belt use, aggressive driving, and speeding, are unlikely to be effective for distracted or drowsy drivers. One exception is for young drivers: some graduated driver licensing provisions help reduce distractions by limiting the number of passengers or restricting cell phone use.

      • 1 Laws and enforcement

Countermeasure Effectiveness Use Cost Time
1.1 Cell Phone laws Uncertain Low Varies Short
1.2 GDL requirements for beinnning drivers Proven High Low Medium
1.3 General fatigue and distraction laws Unknown High Varies Short




      • 2. Communications and outreach

Countermeasure Effectiveness Use Cost Time
2.1 Fatigued or drowsy driving Unknown Unknown Medium Medium
2.2 Disracted driving Unknown Unknown Medium Medium
      • 3. Other countermeasures

Countermeasure Effectiveness Use Cost Time
3.1 Employer programs Unknown Unknown Low Short
3.2 Medical conditions and medications Unknown Unknown Variable Medium
  • Another source of general countermeasures was published in the USA by the Governs Highway Safety Assosciation (GHSA) in 2011. This document entitled “Distracted Driving: What research shows and what states can do”

    • Are there effective countermeasures for distracted driving? Laws banning hand-held cell phone use reduced use by about half when they were first implemented. Hand-held cell phone use increased subsequently but the laws appear to have had some long-term effect. A high-visibility cell phone and texting law enforcement campaign reduced cell phone use immediately after the campaign. Longer-term effects are not yet known.There is no evidence that cell phone or texting bans have reduced crashes. Distracted driving communications campaigns and company policiesand programs are widely used but have not been evaluated.

    • What can states do to reduce distracted driving? States can and should take four steps that will help reduce distracted driving immediately and in the future. 1 - Continue to implement effective low-cost roadway distracted driving countermeasures such as edgeline and centerline rumble strips. 2 - Record distracted driving in crash reports to the extent possible, to assist in evaluating distracted driving laws and programs. 3 - Monitor the impact of existing hand-held cell phone bans prior to enacting new laws. States that have not already passed handheld bans should wait until more definitive research and data are available on these laws’ effectiveness. 4 - Evaluate other distracted driving laws and programs. Evaluation will provide the information states need on which countermeasures are effective and which are not.

    • What should others do to reduce distracted driving? Employers: Consider distracted driving policies and programs for their employees. Evaluate the effects of their distracted driving policies and programs on employee knowledge, behavior, crashes, and economic costs (injuries, lost time, etc.).Automobile industry: Continue to develop, test, and implement measures to manage driver workload and to warn drivers of risky situations. Federal government: Help states evaluate the effects of distracted driving programs. Continue tracking driver cell phone use and texting in the National Occupant Protection Use Survey (NOPUS). Work with states to improve data collection on driver distractions involved in crashes. Continue to develop and conduct national communications campaigns on distracted driving.

  • PRAISE is a project co-funded by the European Commission and implemented by ETSC on Preventing Road Accidents and Injuries for the Safety of Employees (PRAISE). It makes recommendations for managing driver distraction, recommendations for how employers should deal with the risk, as well as proposals for national and European level strategies for driver distraction (

    • Managing the risk: Adopt a policy for managing distracted driving

    • Recommendations for employers: Senior managers to take the lead by respecting the distracted driving policy. Adopt a clear policy against distracted driving / use of mobile phones and other electronic devices while driving for work, including as a minimum: “engine on, phone off” and asking staff to put their phone on voicemail with an appropriate message. Undertake a review of communication strategies and tools in place. Communicate to staff the reasons why policies are in place: hands-free can be as dangerous as hands-held, and having a mobile phone conversation while driving is as bad or even worse than drink driving in terms of risk. Ensure there is a mechanism in place to verify such as a training session to ensure that employees including management level are aware and understand existing driving for work policies.

    • National level: UK “Kill the Conversation”. Belgium “No Phone at the wheel”. Germany “Who is driving?”.

  • Date Added: 27 Mar 2015, 04:53 PM
  • Last Update: 28 Oct 2016, 12:51 PM