From Drink Driving to Taking Selfies – A Review on Safe Driving


5 people are killed, and more than 60 people are seriously injured every day on UK roads. A recent report by leading road safety charity, Brake, in association with Direct Line, reminds us of this startling fact whilst looking at key findings from 2003-2015.

From Drink Driving to Taking Selfies – A Review on Safe Driving

The report looks at main concerns including, the fitness to drive, driver distraction, and speed. Our Head of Motoring Offences, Julie Robertson, comments on these findings.

1 in 8 Deaths Still Caused by Drink Driving

The report notes that a major development took place in March this year with the zero-tolerance law on drug driving, and that the same approach should be taken with drink driving. Brake recommends a reduction from 80mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood to 20mg.

Julie agrees with Brake's recommendation that a zero tolerance policy on drink driving could help:

"I don’t believe a zero tolerance law will stop drink driving but I have no doubt it will lead to a reduction in reported cases. Drivers know that the consequences are severe if they get caught but they still do it and, unfortunately, always will."

Although the number of people admitting to drink driving has reduced from 51% in 2003 to 32% in 2013, the message just isn’t getting through to some people, Julie comments:

"In my experience working with clients, it’s definitely true that people still have the false assumption that 1 or 2 drinks is 'safe'. Drivers can no longer rely on this outdated myth. I am constantly asked by friends and professional acquaintances, 'How many can I have and be under the limit?'. My reply is always, none!"

Distracted Drivers

The report reminds us of the US study which found that as many as 22% of crashes could be caused by being distracted at the wheel, and that distracted motorists are 2-3 times more likely to crash.

Overall, the review finds that the numbers of people making phone calls, either handheld or hands free is reducing slowly, with 45% admitting to this in 2013 down from 54% in 2006. However, Brake found that motorists texting is still a serious problem, with figures of those admitting to it ranging from 29% to 34% between 2006-13.

Furthermore, using apps, the internet or social media is an "emerging problem" with 12% admitting to this in 2013. Julie highlights the dangers of the growing trend of using social media and taking selfies at the wheel:

"Only recently did I tweet about the dangers of taking selfies whilst driving. There was a high profile death in the US where a female driver had only just posted a Facebook update whilst driving when she was killed immediately in a road accident."

"Unfortunately, there seems to be an obsession with social media and selfies at the moment."

Brake suggest that a ban should be extended to cover hands free devices, as they believe such activities also pose a risky distraction, and recommend an increase in traffic policing and an increase of the fine from £100 to £500-1000.

Julie comments on these suggestions:

"I disagree with Brake’s comments that increasing fines and penalty points would deter mobile phone use effectively. This can't be right in my opinion given the fact people drink drive and take risks knowing that a ban is mandatory if they get caught."

Pedestrian and Cyclist Deaths

The report focuses on the importance of reducing speed in protecting both pedestrians and cyclists, and notes that the risk of a crash fell by 5% for every 1mph reduction in speed.

Brake suggest a reduction of speed limits by extending the use of 20mph zones and reducing single carriageway default limits from 60mph to 50mph.

Julie is extremely sympathetic to the report in relation to pedestrian and cyclist deaths but thinks the report is too punitive and harsh to drivers:

"For example, it overlooks that cyclists and pedestrians often take silly chances on the road and sometimes there is absolutely no reaction time or a possibility for a driver to take evasive action."

Overall Findings

At Simpson Millar LLP we are pleased to see reductions in the numbers of people choosing to take the risk of driving after they've had a drink, or using distracting devices at the wheel. Yet it is clear that the law needs to keep up with new challenges such as the use of new technology providing different distractions.

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