Blog: Dave LeggettMobile phones not as distractive as you think

Dave Leggett | 6 August 2003

Now they have as many of their ugly and often ineffective roadside cash registers in place as possible, the at times hysterical road safety lobby in the UK has turned its attention from speed cameras to mobile phone users - those that use their phone while they drive, that is. But a new US study of driver behaviour has found that mobile phones were not the major distraction. Only 30% of the subjects used a mobile phone while their vehicle was moving, compared with 97% who leaned over to reach for something and 91% who fiddled with radio controls.

Researchers at the University of North Carolina tracked 70 drivers from North Carolina and Pennsylvania using miniature cameras placed in their cars for a week. The boffins randomly selected three hours to view their behaviour, eliminating the first three hours of each tape in the hope that drivers would act more naturally later in the week. The study showed drivers were distracted 16.1% of the time their vehicles were moving, and considered a wide range of behaviours to be distracting, including talking to passengers - 77% of drivers had conversations while driving. "People may not realize how distracted they are," a spokesman for the researchers said. "Talking to a passenger seems quite safe, but even something that simple takes away from the road."

Jim Champagne, a former Louisiana state trooper who heads that state's highway safety commission, reportedly said studies like AAA's are critical because researchers still have no clear idea of the extent of the driver distraction problem - but he believes drivers who participated may have changed their behaviour because of the cameras. Ultimately, studying accident data will be the best way to understand the problem, Champagne concluded.

In the arguments against drivers' use of mobile phones in the UK, I have never heard other distractions mentioned - yet daily I see more people diverted by their fellow car occupants than by yabbering on the phone.

But when did bureaucrats ever consider the view of the public who pay their wages? Certainly not the ones in my neck of the woods, who plastered a congested main road with speed cameras and now like to pretend the almost daily injury accidents will magically stop - they haven't.
Graeme Roberts


Colossal China powers on

I'm starting to get a small idea of the scale of things here in China, but really, I'm only scratching the surface of this vast country....


China Hot Pot

Given the startling complexity of obtaining a journalist visa for China - the code 'J2' is now indelibly stamped on my mind - it was with some surprise how swiftly I managed to sail through airport im...

Forgot your password?