“Alarming” figures underline scale of UK’s distracted driving danger

Published on behalf of Road Safety GB

An analysis of the latest figures from the DfT indicates that there may be more than 50,000 instances of people driving while using a hand-held phone every day, along with half a million motorists driving while not wearing a seatbelt.

The headline figures collated by the DfT in a project with AECOM suggests three in every thousand drivers observed on England’s roads are using a mobile phone behind the wheel, with the proportion of van drivers breaking the law three times that of car drivers.

The statistics, gathered using images captured by Acusensus roadside technology, also showed 4.8% of vehicle passengers were observed not wearing a seatbelt.

Geoff Collins, from Acusensus, has conducted an in-depth analysis of these figures. He says that, when extrapolated to reflect the millions of journeys made each day, the numbers are “alarming”.

Mr Collins said: “Drivers who don’t wear their seatbelt are likely to continue this behaviour throughout an entire journey.

“If seen mid-journey without a suitable restraint, this will probably have been the case all the way. However, hand-held mobile phone use is not usually continuous, so it might happen multiple times during a single journey, but not necessarily at the survey point. 

“Because of this, it is possibly misleading to think that more seatbelt violations occur; it is more likely that overall occurrences of distracted driving for any one journey are many times higher than monitored during this survey, which showed 0.3% at any one specific point on the road.

“Based on the observed violation rates from the surveys, if this was extrapolated across the entire network, it is likely that cars would account for more than 30,000 cases of illegal mobile phone use each day, with a further 20,000 or more cases from vans.  This is despite there being only a quarter the number of vans using our roads, compared with cars.”

Each site was surveyed on a weekday, either in the morning or afternoon, for a period of six hours, and these observations were then analysed by human review.

The survey data was collected using Acusensus ‘Heads Up’ technology, using roadside cameras to capture clear images through windscreens. The Acusensus solution also uses Artificial Intelligence-based image analysis to flag up likely violations, although this was not used in the DfT study. 


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