Coordinated by Brake  spons spec savers Support think

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

Charity reveals 20,000 North East & Cumbria drivers have points for mobile phones and 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 Nov) by the charity Brake at the start of Road Safety Week calls on drivers in the North East and Cumbria 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 the North East and Cumbria:

  • More than 20,000 drivers from the North East and Cumbria have points on their licence for using their mobile phone at the wheel or being otherwise distracted (see postcode breakdown). One in 16 (6.2%) of these have six points or more for driving distracted and four in five (81%) are male [1];
  • Half of school children from the North East and Cumbria (53%) report being driven by a driver talking on a phone and three in four (76%) have spotted drivers on mobile phones outside their school or home – suggesting most children are being endangered for the sake of a call or text [2].

New research by distraction expert Dr Amy Guo at Newcastle University highlights the increased risk of turning your car into an extension of the office. It shows the harder you have to concentrate on a task, such as dealing with work-related calls, the slower your reactions. This demonstrates why talking on hands-free is just as risky as hand-held, because it’s concentrating on the conversation that’s the main distraction.

The tune in to road safety campaign is being launched in Road Safety Week by 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 in the North East and Cumbria is being supported by Newcastle University, Road Respect, Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service and Northumbria Police.

The Association of Chief Police Officers is supporting the Week nationally by coordinating a week-long campaign of heightened police enforcement targeting drivers on hand-held phones. Forces including Durham, Northumbria, Cumbria and Cleveland are running activities in support.

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 a NORTH EAST launch event:
AT: 9.30-11am, Monday 18 November 2013, Newcastle University
These take place at these two locations, three minutes’ walk apart:
9.30-11am DriveLab, ground floor, Devonshire House, Newcastle University NE1 7RU - media are invited to film with the University’s driving simulator alongside academic and distraction expert Dr Amy Guo.
10-11am in front of Students' Union, Kings' Walk, Newcastle University NE1 8QB - students will be engaged in interactive activities demonstrating the dangers of distractions with Road Respect, the road safety partnership for the North East, outside the Students’ Union. Students will be posing in gadget masks for photos around a campaign banner, outside the Students’ Union.
INTERVIEWS: Rich Andrew and Joe Burns, Brake; Bereaved volunteers
Emily Carvin, and Kelly Pattinson and her daughter Caitlin Ward (see details below); Dr Amy Guo and Professor Phil Blythe, Newcastle University academics;Jeremy Forsberg, Road Respect; Rebecca Robinson, community safety policy officer, Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service; vox pops with students.

Rich Andrew, senior campaign officer, Brake, the road safety charity: “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 drivers in the North East and Cumbria 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.”

Dr Amy Guo, driver distraction expert from Newcastle University, who led on the research: "We all know how hectic life can get - juggling family, work, deadlines, and other commitments means we are rushing around and constantly trying to multitask. Add this to the fact that we can now be contacted anywhere, anytime because of mobile phones and the result is that many of us are trying to work on the road. It's a lethal combination. Driving does - and should - require 100pc concentration. As our results show, motorists cannot concentrate on the road if they are trying to make decisions or process complicated information."

Jeremy Forsberg, Road Respect: "When you drive, that is all you should be doing. With increasing distractions, there is an increasing driving danger to other innocent road users. Over the years, Northumbria has detected thousands of mobile phone offences and scores more distracted driving offences. Using a mobile while driving is as dangerous as it is stupid. It comes down to respect for other road users, respect for the law. If you don't have Road Respect, you don't belong on the road. Driving while distracted is a choice, and Road Respect is spreading the word with our new campaign Idiot Is a Choice to highlight the choices drivers make. No phone call is worth another life. You wouldn't like it if someone crashed into you, so don't be 'that' driver. Make a smart choice."

Group Manager Dave Jefferson, Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service, said: “We are delighted to support this campaign. All too often our firefighters have to deal with the consequences of drivers being distracted at the wheel or not fully concentrating. The injuries incurred can be horrific; that’s on those who survive; sadly not everyone does. There is a reason why it’s against the law to use your hand held mobile phone whilst driving, please be sensible and stay safe.”

North East case studies

Zoë Carvin, 42, from Northumberland, was killed by a texting lorry driver in February 2006. Her daughter Emily Carvin, 18, is supporting Road Safety Week, and urges drivers to never use a mobile phone when driving. Read more.

Emily Carvin says:
“My mum’s death left our family devastated, and me and my brother without a mother. No one can bring her back, but we can help to stop other families going through the ordeal we have. I urge everyone to give the road their full attention while driving, so other lives are not destroyed. Turn your phone off or on silent and out of sight – ideally in the boot to avoid temptation. There’s no excuse for risking people’s lives just for a call or text.”

Grandfather Brian Pattinson, 72, from Durham, was killed when a car coming the other way spun into his path, hitting him head on. The other driver had run into the back of a row of stationary cars, spinning out of control. Bristow’s lawyer later said he’d had a momentary lapse in concentration. Read more.

Brian’s daughter Kelly Pattinson said: “My dad was devastated by my brother’s death at the hands of a dangerous driver as a small child, and he was the most well-mannered driver you could wish for because of it. He never had a single point on his licence and he always tried to instil good driving in others too. It’s so tragic that he was killed because a driver wasn’t paying attention as he should have been. Everyone has a responsibility to play their part and make roads safer, to stop the appalling deaths and injuries that happen on roads. I’m asking everyone to tune into road safety; that means always paying full attention to the road, and not allowing yourself to be distracted.”

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, or may be offered a course instead of taking points. In 2012, more than 10,000 drivers caught using their phone at the wheel took a ‘what’s driving us’ course, instead of opting for 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.

Sponsor quotes

A spokesperson from Romex, says: “We are delighted to be supporting Road Safety Week, and working with Brake to help reduce crashes caused by distracted drivers. At Romex we know educating drivers on the dangers of using your phone at the wheel is vital. Companies can make an enormous difference to the safety of their workforce, and help to prevent devastating crashes, by addressing driver distraction in their fleet. We’re proud to be able to help companies do this, and thrilled to help Brake spread the ‘tune in’ message. If we all get behind this campaign, we can make a huge difference in preventing casualties and making our roads safer places.”

Paul Carroll, director of professional services at Specsavers, says: 'We’re delighted to support Road Safety Week for the second consecutive year in support of Brake’s call for driver’s to tune into road safety and avoid distractions at the wheel. Road Safety Week is particularly relevant to us as we have campaigned for more than 10 years with our Drive Safe message, which calls for all drivers to have regular eye examinations and carry a spare pair of glasses in their car. Specsavers stores nationwide have also donated hi-viz vests to school children and screened motorists’ vision in town centres. We hope that by working with Brake on initiatives such as Road Safety Week we can make the roads safer for all road users and pedestrians.”

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 Newcastle University

  • Newcastle University is a Russell Group University
  • We rank in the top 20 of UK universities in The Sunday Times 2013 University Guide
  • Amongst our peers Newcastle is:
    • 5th in the UK for graduates into jobs (HESA 2011-12)
    • 10th in the UK for student satisfaction
    • Ranked 8th in the UK for Medical research power
    • In the UK’s top 12 for research power in Science and Engineering
  • 95% of our students are in a job or further training within six months of graduating
  • We have a world-class reputation for research excellence and are spearheading three major societal challenges that have a significant impact on global society. These themes are: Ageing and Health, Sustainability, and Social Renewal
  • Newcastle University is the first UK university to establish a fully owned international branch campus for medicine at its NUMed Campus in Malaysia which opened in 2011
  • Our International students put Newcastle University in world's top 12 (ISB 2011)

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. 780 of these children were from the North East and Cumbria. 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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