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2014-07-18 12:48

ANOTHER STATISTIC: Cellphone use will by the end of 2015 be the main cause of fatal accidents on British roads. It could be the same in South Africa one day. Insert: SilentWitness MD Simon Marsh. Main image: Shutterstock

LONDON, England - Road-safety campaigners are warning that mobile phone distraction will become a bigger killer on the UK’s roads than drunk-driving by as soon as next year.

The number of drivers using cellphones to make calls, sent SMS's and update social media has risen to epidemic levels and distracted driving is expected to be the biggest single cause of death and injuries on the roads in 2015.

This week British transport minister Patrick McLoughlin floated the idea to double the current penalty for cellphone use to six points on a driving licence but this won’t come into effect until the next parliament at the earliest and safety campaigners say it isn’t enough.

They want a year's driving ban.


Department for Transport figures reveal that 378 crashes specifically involving a cellphone were reported in 2012 — more than any year on record. They caused 548 casualties, including 17 deaths, but motoring experts say this figure gives a false impression of the true scale of the problem.

Many cases are classed wrongly as "in-vehicle distraction". Use that term and the number of crashes rises to 9012 and the death toll to 196 from 2010 through 2012. When these figures are combined the total dead is 213, only 27 fewer than caused by drunk-driving. And with the current steep decline of alcohol-related crashes cellphone distraction is expected to become the biggest cause of death on the roads within a year.

Simon Marsh, MD of incident video camera firm SmartWitness, said: “The problem is far more widespread than the transport department believes and 'driver distraction due to mobiles' will soon be the biggest single cause of road deaths.

“We believe many serious and fatal accidents are wrongly classed as 'in-vehicle distraction'. The only real deterrent is a one-year driving ban for anybody caught texting at the wheel. It’s clear that the current legislation isn’t working and an increase to six points for mobile offenders will not be enough to stop the death toll.

"Lives are being ruined just because somebody wants to send a text message bug the only message that should be sent is from the government that this is not acceptable."


The number of offenders using a mobile when driving has more than doubled since 2009 from 1.2% to 2.6% in 2012.

In 2012 583 686 drivers were fined £60 (the equivalent of R1100) and three demerit points were added to their driving licence, more than THEN TIME HIGHER than the 55 300 convictions for drunk-driving at that time and the age group of 18-25 (most likely to use a cellphone while driving) has seen the biggest rise in road deaths.

In the USA several logistics firms are now installing SmartWitness cameras, with a second camera in the cab to make sure that drivers do not use a cellphone. Several states in America have very steep fines for doing so.

Marsh added: “Most people who use a phone when driving think it’s highly unlikely that they'll be caught. It’s not being thoroughly policed and the penalties aren’t that stiff so people are prepared to take the risk but there should also be greater education for young drivers to see the huge danger of using a phone when driving.”


In June 2014 automaker VW launched a viral campaign called “Eyes On The Road” to raise awareness of cellphone use in Japan where such behaviour is "the leading cause of death behind the wheel".

The video was watched over 26m times. Watch it here.
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