Distracted driving tops driver-worry list

Safety Culture Index studied driver attitudes on safety and behaviour

Published: November 7, 2015, 9:00 AM
Updated: November 11, 2015, 9:14 AM

Distracted Driving

Once the bane of safe driving, drinking and driving has apparently been relegated to also-ran as more drivers worry about the distraction level of other motorists who share the road.

A recent study from the UK’s Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM), an independent safe driving non-profit organization, showed the majority of motorists are more worried about the dangers of distracted drivers than they are about drunk drivers.

The Safety Culture Index report, the first of its kind conducted by IAM, surveyed more than 2,000 UK motorists’ attitudes to driving safety and behaviour on the roads and found that 77% believe the technology in today’s vehicles pose a much bigger problem than it did just three years ago, whereas only 23% believe drunk driving is more of threat today than it was in 2012.

“This report is a crucial barometer of what drivers are really thinking,” said Sarah Sillars, IAM chief executive officer. “Understanding the issues drivers see as important when it comes to road safety is essential for establishing how best to communicate with them and to achieve behaviour change, on both a local and national level.”

Asked to rank social behaviours on a threat scale, 93% or respondents said text messaging was a “very or somewhat serious” threat to safe driving, followed closely by keeping up on social media (92%), drunk driving (90%) and driving under the influence of drugs (89%).

Speeding had mixed risk perception, with 86% believing it to be a problem on residential streets and 36% saying it was a threat on the highway. In explaining the perception, the survey found 61% of respondents say it was acceptable to drive 10 mph (16.1 km/h), while 27% said it was acceptable to exceed posted neighbourhood limits by 5 mph (8 km/h).

“The good news is that the vast majority of drivers do value safety and they want to feel even safer on the road in the future,” said IAM President Nigel Mansell CBE, a former Formula 1 and Indycar driving champion. “They take speeding and drink-driving very seriously and are happy to support even stronger legislation even if it may stop them doing things they admit to doing themselves.”

In slight contrast to the high risk evaluation of text messaging, though, just 85% of respondents said talking on a handheld phone was unacceptable and only 36% found talking hands-free was unacceptable.

“It is up to all of us now, armed with this information, to do something about it,” concluded Sillars.