While general road safety is improving, research shows a worrying increase in mobile phone use whilst driving. RTITB, the UK’s largest Driver CPC Consortium, suggests that the right training can help LGV drivers change their attitudes towards this act of dangerous driving.
Although most people are aware of the dangers of using a mobile phone whilst driving, a survey by road safety charity Brake revealed that 55 per cent of drivers admit to talking on the phone while behind the wheel. From March 2017, the penalty for using a hand-held mobile at the wheel in the England, Scotland and Wales was increased to an on-the spot fine of £200 and six points added to the offender’s driving licence.
“This clamp-down on phone use when driving shows that authorities are taking the matter more seriously, but this seemingly isn’t enough to deter drivers,” says Laura Nelson, Managing Director for RTITB. “In order to change drivers’ attitudes to using a mobile phone while driving, companies need to deliver relevant, quality training, highlighting the dangers, and teaching how to eliminate this distraction.”
The ‘In Cab Distractions’ topic from the RTITB Master Driver CPC Consortium’s extensive training library explains how different types of distraction can impact a driver. From mechanical distractions, which engage the hands in jobs other than controlling a vehicle, to sensory distractions, which take over visual and auditory senses, and cognitive distractions, which take thinking resources away from driving.
RTITB suggests that part of the reason mobile phone use while driving is on the rise could be because of technology like Bluetooth, which enables drivers to easily connect devices to their vehicle.
“For many, this normalises the use of mobile phones when driving, leading drivers to forget the dangers,” says Laura Nelson. “This means when hands-free isn’t available, drivers still go ahead and use their phone behind the wheel. We’ve seen a particular increase in texting whilst out on the road.”
It is illegal to use a hand-held phone while driving, and in some circumstances, using a phone hands-free is also not permitted. However, even in situations where using a hands-free mobile phone is legally allowed, this can still significantly distract a driver, impairing their visual, audio and cognitive senses. According to Brake, drivers speaking on phones are four times more likely to be in a crash that causes injury, whether on a hands-free or hand-held phone.
“The real message to deliver to drivers is that they should avoid using their phone, even hands-free, whilst driving as there are already so many distractions to contend with,” adds Laura Nelson. “Although they are designed to benefit the driver, sat-nav systems, PDAs and Tachograph systems all contribute to distraction.”
“That said, new technologies can also support increased safety and prevent drivers from being tempted to use their phones,” Laura continues. “For example, the newest iPhone models have been intelligently designed so that they can automatically switch to ‘Do Not Disturb’ mode when the user is driving.”
Some people still incorrectly believe that using a phone whilst the vehicle is stationary is acceptable. However, the driver is always responsible for the vehicle in a live road environment. Even if the truck isn’t moving, an LGV driver’s surroundings could change in an instant. When stopped in traffic or at a red light, the driver’s focus and attention should solely be on being a safe road user, and using a mobile phone can distract from that.
RTITB has seen many examples where changing the company culture around mobile phone use and incorporating relevant training can change driver attitudes and increase safety. In addition, by reducing accidents, both the number, and value, of vehicle insurance claims can often be driven down, delivering a financial benefit for businesses.
“To help companies tackle this important issue further, in 2018 we will be releasing a new Driver CPC training topic specifically about avoiding mobile phone use when driving,” says Laura Nelson. “This is designed to help more companies raise awareness amongst their drivers that although technology has changed, the dangers of using a mobile phone while driving have definitely not.”
For more information about Driver CPC Periodic Training and the RTITB Master Driver CPC Consortium, visit www.rtitb.co.uk/cpc-17 or call the expert RTITB team on +44 (0) 1952 520207.