Thousands of drivers admit to breaking the law behind the wheel yet want to see more traffic cops clamping down on offences, research finds

The survey by road safety and breakdown organisation GEM Motoring Assist finds that more than one in 10 drivers (11%) are prepared to use a hand-held mobile at the wheel, and more than six in 10 (63%) admitting to snacking while driving

And 42% of drivers admit to reduced levels of attention because they’re prepared to tolerate more distractions while driving.

Yet, more than 75% of motorists want to see more traffic cops clamping down on law-breaking drivers.

GEM chief executive David Williams MBE said: “The survey reveals the double standards at the heart of motoring in this country, and the enormous challenge the authorities face to promote behaviour change.

“As one of our respondents commented, manufacturers increasingly afford drivers the opportunity to communicate from their vehicles. The temptation to take advantage of this is too high for most normal people and punishing them is not going to provide the solution.”

The survey shows that opinion is split on the value of enforcement cameras, with 34.9% of respondents calling for more cameras, 39.4% happy with existing levels of automated enforcement and 25.7% wanting fewer.

Following regular reports about drivers still permitted to keep their licences despite accumulating 12 or more penalty points, 66.4% of respondents wanting courts to show a tougher, more consistent line in their sentencing of ‘totters’.

Williams added: “We believe the Government priority should be to seek out a raft of new, compelling messages that will persuade drivers to banish distractions. At the same time, we call for a much-needed boost in traffic police numbers to deal with the riskiest drivers on our roads.” 

Here is the link to Fleetworld:

What do I think?

It is interesting that reference is made to the temptation of using technology to communicate whilst driving being too much for normal people to resist and that punishing them is not the solution. Drivers have choices to make and with these choices come potential consequences.

There is evidence that use of hands free causes distractions which for some result in being involved in serious and fatal road traffic collisions. For example, Contributory factors in reported accidents by severity, Great Britain, 2014 shows that “Drivers using mobile phone” was a factor in 21 fatal accidents, 84 serious accidents and a factor in 492 accidents. Also, if you have ever used hands free when driving, have you ever missed your turn or ‘lost’ the last ten minutes of your journey? Therefore, the temptation to use technology to communicate is not an excuse for making a choice which could literally kill another road user.  Choices which may not be explicitly condoned by organisations who may be tempted to use the veil of their on road policies which state that drivers must not use hands free calls whilst driving. However, if organisational culture choses to ignore these policies until something goes wrong, then the organisation has failed to manage its road risk.  Worse still, if you have in place a policy which identifies a risk (using hands free phones for example) and you have put in place control measures to manage these risks (such as do not use hands free when driving) and it is common knowledge that managers regularly call their staff when they are driving then it should be no surprise that if things go wrong there will be some tough questions to answer.

There has to be a balance between effectively managing on road risk and making money. For example, selling your organisation’s safety credentials but publicising to your customers that your staff will not answer their phones when on the move, but will stop at regular intervals to check voice and emails. Of course there is a counter argument that missed calls mean missed business. But you know the facts so make the choices and be ready to be held accountable as an individual making the health and safety decisions or the driver involved in the accident.

What about the Government priority of seeking out a raft of compelling messages to pursued drivers to banish distractions? Drivers know they should not speed, drink and drive, use hand held mobile phones, should wear their seat belt, not eat their lunch whilst driving and so on. So why do some drivers believe it is acceptable to make choices which go against laws which have been in pace for many years/are common sense? I am not sure what raft of compelling messages will change this behaviour.

More enforcement may contribute to road safety because the greater the risk of being caught the less likely most drivers are to take the risk. What about the culture of an organisation and the influence this can have on safety. Strong leadership from the top down which communicates safe driving practise and expectations to all staff, outlines clear consequences for safety breaches and rewards safe drivers is a better option.