There is no doubt the roads are safer in Ireland in comparison to 20 years ago. Even think a look at the simplest thing of wearing a seatbelt now, that has definitely saved more lives and it is definitely a lot safer. According to the Road Safety Authority, “the number of Irish road deaths fell to 162 in 2012″. But each week there continues to be deaths on Irish roads. Whether it’s a small or big number, an accident on the road is tragic. Accidents can always be prevented and that is why the rules of the road are vital. Safety is key, and that is the main concern for Irish roads today.

Switch off before you drive off - photo credit- RSA

Switch off before you drive off – photo credit- RSA

On the 26th of February 2014, the Road Safety Authority (RSA) did their weekly announcement on the radio saying that 174 people were arrested on suspicion of drink driving, and three people were killed on the roads in the past seven days. Lives were taken and those who were drinking while driving put many other people at risk. Risk and danger is not something we need on our roads, and that is why road safety is crucial. Drink driving is not the only risk on our roads and it is important to understand the other causes of collisions.

Multitasking while driving has become a major concern in Ireland.  It leaves drivers distracted, at risk of collision and affects their performance greatly. I spoke with Katie, a member from the RSA media department, and she explained just how dangerous driving while using a phone really is. Detective Ger Moore also gave me an insight into the importance of staying focused while driving.

The law states “you can only use your mobile when you’re driving if you are phoning 999 or 112, or it is another type of emergency. It is an offence to hold a mobile phone in your hand or support it with another part of your body, for example between your head and shoulder, when you are driving”. This law can be seen and confirmed by An Garda Síochána.  That is the law in this country and that law is not kept. The law is there for the drivers own safety and it is up to them to obey it. Basically, you can’t use your phone while driving as it is a huge distraction.  “We estimate that distracted driving plays a part in 20-30% of all collisions” says Katie. This is a shocking amount and yet people still continue to do it. “I’ll never understand why people take the risk, is it really worth your life” Detective Moore states with passion.

On the 27th of March 2014, the RSA stated ”it is estimated that at any given during the day, one in 20 (5%) of Irish drivers are using a mobile phone while driving, with particularly high usage rates in Dublin (13%) compared to other urban centres such as Cork (1%) and Galway (3%)”.

So what actually happens if someone if found using their device while driving? If a Garda charges you for the offence it is a cost of €60. Two penalty points are also issued with this. “Get the point, not the points” is the famous motto used by the RSA. And it is a ‘point’ well made.

So now we know what happens if someone is caught using it. But let’s take a look at the actual dangers of using a phone. The main danger of course is driver distraction, as the RSA has informed. “You are four times more likely at risk of a collision when using a phone”. According to the RSA’s report on ‘use of mobile phones while driving – Effects on Road safety’, phones can distract a driver in several ways.

1)      Physically- a person actually holds on to their phone, so therefore one (or two) hands aren’t controlling the wheel or changing gears.

2)      Visually- the driver’s eyes are focusing on their phone, and therefore they are not aware of what is happening with the road/traffic. Also if the driving is talking on the phone, their eyes may be on the road, but they are only ‘looking’ and not actually ‘seeing’

3)      Auditory- the driver’s attention moves from the road environment to the conversation going on on the phone.

4)      Cognitively- the drivers’ full attention is required to be on the road, but instead it is on the phone and the conversation going on there.

No matter how focused a driver thinks they are when they are using their phones, they are not. It is impossible. The risk should not be taken.

So if this is the case when talking to someone on the phone, why isn’t as dangerous as talking to a passenger in the car? This is because conversations in real life are “self paced”. “Phone conversations are generally deliberately initiated conversations and, compared with a passenger can be conducted in a less urgent manner.” The passenger is already aware that a drivers’ concentration is required for the road, so their conversations are of a gentler manner. Also the passenger is able to see the road and oncoming traffic, and therefore can nearly assist the driver to dangerous situations.

The last statistics published about driving with a mobile phone was done so in May 2010. It stated that one in five drivers “regularly use phones while driving”. One in ten people admitted they text and drive and over 12,000 people were found to be using their devices.  93,525 penalty points were also issued this year.

So now the question lies. Will you still use your phone while driving? Will you let your phone take all of your attention and put you at risk? Driving with a phone makes you four times likely to crash. Is your life really worth that test?

Switch off before you drive off, your life is worth more than a text message.

RSA Driver Distraction Statistics

RSA Driver Distraction Statistics