London - People using cellphones while they’re driving are motorists’ biggest safety fear.
Research in Britain has shown that distracted driving was considered even more dangerous than speeding and drunk driving.
The research forms part of a campaign by the charity Brake, backed by victims whose lives have been changed by crashes caused by distracted drivers. It comes amid warnings of ‘epidemic’ levels of illegal phone use by drivers and a crackdown on them by police.
Five people die on British roads every day and 61 are seriously injured, according to Brake. Its researchers asked 1000 drivers what they considered the biggest danger on the roads.
Almost half - 41 percent - said distracted drivers, followed by speeding (35 per cent). Drunk drivers or those who had taken drugs were identified as the biggest danger by 18 percent.
Vehicle emissions, drivers with poor eyesight and not wearing seat belts also emerged as concerns.
Half the drivers surveyed confessed to using a handheld phone in stationary traffic and a third said they had done so while on the move. Research shows using a cellphone slows drivers’ reactions by up to 50 percent, and those who use handheld phones are four times more likely to crash than those who do not use a phone behind the wheel.
Victims speak out
Brake’s road safety campaign this week features appeals from the victims of crashes, asking drivers to change their dangerous behaviour.
Imogen Cauthery, who was hit by a driver using a cellphone in North London when she was nine, was in a coma for 10 days and has suffered epilepsy, seizures, memory loss and learning difficulties since the crash in 1996.
“That driver ruined my life for the sake of a phone call,” said Cauthery, now 29. “I went from being at the top of my class to having my future taken away from me.
“I see drivers on their phones every day and it makes me so angry. It’s so selfish. They’re putting themselves and others in danger, and there’s no excuse.”
Earlier in November truck driver Tomasz Kroker, 30, was jailed for 10 years for crashing into a line of stationary cars on the A34 in Berkshire, killing a mother and three children.
A judge said he had been changing music on his phone for several seconds when he ploughed into the traffic queue at 80km/h.
Using a handheld phone while driving was banned in the UK in 2003 and carries a £100 (R1780) fine and three penalty points, but this is to rie to £200 (R3560) and six points in 2017.
Hands-free phones are legal but researchers have warned they can be as distracting to a driver as a handheld device.