Coordinated by Brake  spons spec savers Support think

Campaign appeals to Scottish drivers: tune in to road safety and turn off your phone

Charity reveals 85,000 Scottish drivers have points for mobile phones and other distractions

18 November 2013

Brake, the road safety charity
t: 01484 559909, out of hours: 07976 069159, e: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

A campaign launched today (18 November) by the charity Brake at the start of Road Safety Week calls on drivers across Scotland to tune into road safety, to prevent appalling crashes caused by multitasking at the wheel. The campaign appeals to drivers to turn off their phones or put them in the boot, and urges everyone to refuse to speak on the phone to someone who’s driving. It’s being launched almost a decade after hand-held mobiles at the wheel were banned and coincides with a week-long enforcement campaign.

Brake and partners Specsavers and Romex are revealing statistics confirming the extent of driver distraction, and its impact on vulnerable road users in Scotland:

  • Nearly 85,000 Scottish drivers have points on their licence for using their mobile phone at the wheel or being otherwise distracted (figures by postcode). One in 11 (9.2%) of these drivers have six points or more for driving distracted and three in four (75%) are male [1];
  • Six in ten Scottish school children (62%) report being driven by a driver talking on a phone and three in four (77%) have spotted drivers on mobile phones outside their school or home – suggesting the majority of children are being endangered by drivers for the sake of a call or text [2].

The tune in to road safety campaign is being launched in Road Safety Week by events and demonstrations in schools, universities and town centres across the UK, highlighting the dangers of taking your eyes, hands or mind off the road. The campaign is being supported by Transport Scotland and Police Scotland, who are coordinating a week-long campaign of heightened police enforcement across the country targeting drivers on hand-held phones.

Distraction reduces hazard perception and increases reaction times in a similar way to drink-driving, making drivers much more likely to cause deaths and injuries [3]. Drivers who think they can multi-task are fooling themselves: research shows 98% are unable to divide their time without it affecting performance [4]. Talking on a phone hand-held or hands free, texting, emailing, adjusting sat navs, eating, drinking and smoking are all proven to increase crash risk [5]. (More facts about driver distraction below.)

Media are invited to the SCOTLAND launch event:
Road Safety Week is being launchedat an event sponsored by Digby Brown Solicitors.
AT: 9.50 am, Monday 18 November 2013
Driving simulator lab, Room 2.59, David Brewster Building, Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh EH14 4AS
FILMING/PHOTOS: distractions expert Dr Terry Lansdown will be leading an experiment (10-10.30am) to demonstrate the impact of distraction to a group of students using a driving simulator and eye tracking technology. Students will be posing in gadget masks for photos around a campaign banner. TV crews are also invited to film mobile phone enforcement activity with police off-campus.
INTERVIEWS: Fraser Simpson, Brake spokesperson; Dr Terry Lansdown,
Senior Lecturer in Applied Psychology, Heriot-Watt University; Inspector Andy Amour, Roads Policing Management Support, Police Scotland (lead on Road Safety Week enforcement campaign); vox pops with students.

Fraser Simpson, spokesperson for Brake, the road safety charity, said: “We’re living in an age when being constantly connected is the norm; more and more of us have smartphones, and find it hard to switch off, even for a minute. While there are enormous benefits to this new technology, it’s also posing dangerous temptations to drivers to divert their concentration away from the critical task at hand, often putting our most vulnerable road users in danger. Many people who wouldn't dream of drink-driving are succumbing to using their phone and other distractions while driving, oblivious that the effect can be similar and the consequences just as horrific. We’re calling on Scotland’s drivers to tune into road safety: turn off your phone or put it in the boot, and never try to multi-task at the wheel. We’re also appealing to everyone to refuse to chat to someone on the phone who’s driving, to help them arrive safely.”

Transport Minister Keith Brown said: “This campaign addresses the fact that any activity which takes a driver’s concentration away from the road is potentially dangerous. We would encourage everyone to acknowledge driving as a skill which requires concentration and judgement.

“While the number of road casualties in Scotland are at their lowest ever level, there is still simply no room for complacency. One death on Scotland’s roads is one too many and our focus continues to be on reducing the numbers further.”

Dr Terry Lansdown, driver distraction expert from Heriot-Watt University, said: "Nearly 1.3 Million people die each year from road traffic crashes and data suggest that by 2030, road traffic injury will be the fifth most prevalent global cause of death. Robust international data shows that distraction is a major contributor in traffic incidents. It has been reported to be a factor in nearly four in five road collisions and other US data suggests that distraction is a component in 16% of fatal crashes. For British males aged between 15-24 years, driving is the most likely reason for premature death.

“Inattention is either the most dangerous error or the second most dangerous error that the drivers of trucks or passenger vehicles, respectively, can make. In general, any 'additional to driving' tasks reduce the driver's ability to respond to a potential hazard, and phone use has been consistently shown to be one of the most distracting things the driver can attempt. More and more lives being ruined every year as a result of the temptation to do additional things while driving. Let's do what we can to stop that happening."

Inspector Andy Amour, Police Scotland (lead on Road Safety Week enforcement campaign), Edinburgh/Stirling Trunk Road Patrol Group, said: “Driving requires your full attention. It is absolutely essential that people concentrate on their driving rather than talking on their mobile phone. At the end of the day, is the call that important that it is worth risking your life for? Better to switch the phone off and pick up any missed calls or texts when it is safe and convenient to do so. Adjusting sat-navs, stereos or any in-car technology, distracts you from your driving and the reality is, that split second distraction could have fatal consequences. I cannot emphasise enough the grave risk people are putting themselves, and other road users, in by not concentrating when in the car. People seem to think it will not happen to them, but it can and it will. You could either be the victim or the one who causes a crash or a death. My advice, don’t risk it.”

Fraser Oliver, Chief Executive of Digby Brown Solicitors, said: “We are proud to be supporting Road Safety Week, and working with Brake to help reduce crashes on our roads caused by distracted drivers. At Digby Brown we know from our first-hand experience of representing individuals and families the very real consequences of unsafe driving. We know that staying focused is vital to ensuring you’re safe at the wheel, enabling you to spot hazards in time and react quickly in an emergency. We’re urging as many people as possible to pledge to tune into road safety and avoid distractions at the wheel. If all of us who use Scotland’s roads get behind this campaign, we can make a huge difference in preventing casualties and making our streets safer places.”

Facts on driver distraction

Driving is the most dangerous thing most of us do on a regular basis: you're operating a potentially dangerous machine in an unpredictable, public environment so it requires full concentration at all times.

In the United States, death from distracted driving has been increasing and researchers put this down to increases in drivers using smart technology [6]. In the UK Ofcom has warned of increasing levels of smartphone addiction by users who are unable to go without checking their phone for short periods or through the night [7].

It is believed around one in five crashes could be caused, at least in part, by driver distraction and drivers who perform a secondary task at the wheel are two to three times as likely to crash [8]. Some very complex tasks, like talking on a phone, whether hand-held or hands-free, increase this risk even more [9].

The effect of talking on a phone on driving has been shown to be worse than drinking certain levels of alcohol. Driver reaction times are 30% slower while using a hands-free phone than driving with a blood alcohol level of 80mg alcohol per 100ml blood (the current UK limit) and nearly 50% slower than driving normally and soberly [10].

Other forms of distraction not involving technology also cause risk. If you're eating or drinking at the wheel, you are less able to react; some studies have suggested the risk is as great as when talking on a phone [11]. Heightened emotions such as stress, anger or upset are cognitive distractions that significantly impede your ability to drive safely. The level of distraction depends on the level of distress [12].

Drivers caught using a hand-held phone at the wheel to call or text face a (recently increased) fixed penalty notice of £100 and three points. In some cases drivers may go to court and face disqualification and maximum fine of £1,000. Drivers who cause a crash and kill someone while using a phone could face up to 14 years in prison, as well as the knowledge that someone died because of their decision to use their phone at the wheel.

Read more facts on driver distraction.

Notes for editors

About Brake

Brake is an independent road safety charity. Brake exists to stop the five deaths and 63 serious injuries that happen on UK roads every day and to care for families bereaved and seriously injured in road crashes. Brake runs awareness-raising campaigns, community education programmes, events such as Road Safety Week (18-24 November 2013), and a Fleet Safety Forum, providing advice to companies. Brake’s support division cares for road crash victims through a helpline and other services.

Road crashes are not accidents; they are devastating and preventable events, not chance mishaps. Calling them accidents undermines work to make roads safer, and can cause insult to families whose lives have been torn apart by needless casualties.

About Road Safety Week

Road Safety Week is the UK’s flagship event to promote safer road use, coordinated annually by the charity Brake and involving thousands of schools, communities and organisations across the country. Road Safety Week 2013 takes place 18-24 November, with support from the Department for Transport, headline sponsors Romex and Specsavers, plus regional sponsors the Post Office, ARCO, Wilson Nesbitt Solicitors and ARI Fleets.

About Heriot-Watt University

Heriot-Watt University (HWU) specialises in science, technology, engineering, business and design, with a particular focus on developing solutions to critical global issues, such as climate change and energy. Established in 1821, the university has campuses in Edinburgh, the Scottish Borders, Orkney and Dubai, and is investing £35 million in a new campus in Malaysia.

In The Sunday Times 2013 University Guide: Number 4 in Scotland; Top in Scotland for Chemical Engineering, Building and Civil Engineering; In the UK Top 10 for Mathematics, Chemical Engineering, Building, Town & Country Planning and Landscape, and Food Science. In the National Student Survey 2013: No 1 in Scotland and No 4 in UK (based on responses to all questions from FT degree students); In the Top 10 for graduate employment in the UK (over 94% of graduates are in employment or further study within six months of graduation).

If you're interested in getting involved Dr Lansdown's research on driver distraction go to:

About Digby Brown Solicitors

Digby Brown Solicitors is Scotland’s largest personal injury practice, with offices in Dundee, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Inverness and Kirkcaldy. Every year, the firm provide legal support and representation to thousands of people affected by road traffic crashes across Scotland. Digby Brown sponsors the Brake helpline in Scotland. The firm are the only Scottish practice to be top-ranked for Personal Injury in Scotland by both the Legal 500 and Chambers and Partners’ independent guides to the UK Legal profession.

About Specsavers

  • Specsavers was founded by Doug and Dame Mary Perkins in 1984 and is now the largest privately owned opticians in the world. The couple still run the company, along with their three children. Their son John is joint managing director
  • Specsavers has more than 1,600 stores throughout the UK, Ireland, the Netherlands, Sweden, Norway, Finland, Denmark, Spain, Australia and New Zealand
  • Total revenue for the Specsavers Group was £1.7 billion in 2011/2012
  • More than 20 million customers used Specsavers globally in 2011/2012. As of end March 2012, Specsavers had 16,138,076 customers in the UK and 928,582 customers in the Republic of Ireland *those who have been on the Specsavers database and active in the past four years
  • Specsavers optical stores and hearing centres are owned and run by joint venture or franchise partners. Together, they offer both optical and hearing services under one roof.
  • Specsavers employs more than 30,000 staff
  • Specsavers was voted Britain’s most trusted brand of opticians for the eleventh year running by the Reader’s Digest Trusted Brands survey 2012
  • More than one in three people who wear glasses in the UK buy them from Specsavers* - 10,800,000 glasses were exported from the warehouse to stores in 2011
  • Specsavers was ranked No 1 for both eye tests and glasses in the UK
  • Specsavers sold more than 290 million contact lenses globally in 2011/12 and has more than a million customers on direct debit schemes. Specsavers' own contact lens brand - easyvision - is the most known on the high street
  • The hearcare business in the UK has established itself as the number one high street provider of adult audiology services to the NHS
  • Specsavers supports several UK charities including Guide Dogs, Hearing Dogs for Deaf People, Sound Seekers, the road safety charity Brake, the anti-bullying charity Kidscape and Vision Aid Overseas, for whom stores have raised enough funds to build a school of optometry in Zambia and open eyecare outreach clinics in much of the country

About Romex

Romex is an innovative company specialising in mobile workforce management solutions that enable companies to better protect and manage their employees.  By knowing where employees are and where they have been every minute of the working day and both how far and fast they have travelled, customers can improve productivity, efficiency and customer service, and reduce costs, administration and fuel usage.  Companies can also improve the health and safety of employees who drive on business or work alone and comply with legislation.  Our new Driver Distraction Management (DDM) module improves driver safety by preventing employees from making and receiving calls, texting, e-mailing or using social media when driving.  With no additional hardware needed DDM makes company policy on mobile phone use a reality and improves safety without losing productivity by allowing employers to contact employees without distracting them.   

  • Simple to use and quick to implement, Romex solutions turn GPS enabled smartphones in to highly accurate safety andtracking devices.
  • Romex can also help companies comply with health and safety legislation relating to employees who drive on business (INDG382) and Lone Workers (INDG73).
  • These solutions can be used for all employees, including Blue and White Collar workers regardless of how they travel, whether in a company van, their own car (the Grey Fleet), on public transport or even on foot.
  • A free demonstration is available upon registration at
  • Romex World Ltd is part of Citylink Group Ltd, a technology business with 25 years of investment and experience that has built a number of service based businesses and delivered innovative web-based solutions. 

End notes:

[1] Analysis of Freedom of Information requests to the DVLA by Brake in August 2013.

[2] Results of a survey of more than 13,000 children age 7-11 from across the UK by Brake, Romex and Specsavers, conducted May – October 2013. 3,200 of these children were from Scotland. See full results.

[3] The impact of driver inattention on near-crash/crash risk: an analysis using the 100-car naturalistic driving study data, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 2006

[4] Supertaskers: Profiles in extraordinary multitasking ability, University of Utah, 2010

[5] The impact of driver inattention on near-crash/crash risk: an analysis using the 100-car naturalistic driving study data, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 2006

[6] Trends in Fatalities From Distracted Driving in the United States, 1999 to 2008, University of North Texas, 2010

[7] The Communications Market 2011, Ofcom, 2011

[8] The impact of driver inattention on near-crash/crash risk: an analysis using the 100-car naturalistic driving study data, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 2006

[9] Role of mobile phones in motor vehicle crashes resulting in hospital attendance: a case-crossover study, University of Western Australia, 2005

[10] Using a hands-free mobile whilst driving can be more dangerous than drink driving, Transport Research Laboratory, 2009

[11] Crash dieting: The effects of eating and drinking on driving performance, Brunel University, 2008

[12] Emotionally involving telephone conversations lead to driver error and visual tunnelling, The Open University, 2011

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