AS scientific tests have revealed that drivers on mobile phones have slower reaction times than drivers under the influence of alcohol, Gardaí and the Road Safety Department of Mayo County Council have joined forces to highlight the danger of using a mobile phone while driving.
The Transport Research Laboratory in the UK has conducted tests which have shown the slower reaction times among drivers using mobile phones than those under the influence and a leading Mayo Garda has issued a plea for people to be aware of the dangers of mobile use.
“The problem is you actually get sucked into the telephone conversation,” said Castlebar Superintendent Willie Keaveney. “The conversation starts to take precedence over the driving task. The person on the end of the phone doesn’t know the driving conditions around you. If someone’s in the car talking to you they can stop talking if a dangerous situation arises. People just don’t seem to understand how distracting these telephone conversations are.”
The research said reaction times were, on average, 30% slower when talking on a mobile than when just over the legal limit, and nearly 50% slower than when driving normally.
Drivers on mobiles were also less able to maintain a constant speed and found it more difficult to keep a safe distance from the car in front.
In addition, drivers who sent or read text messages were more prone to drift out of their lane, the research found
In the tests at 70 miles per hour, the braking distance was 102ft (31m), which increased to 115ft (35m) with alcohol; 128ft (39m) with a hands-free phone and 148ft (45m) with a hand-held mobile.
“We must all recognise that driving and using mobile phones can kill,” Noel Gibbons, Mayo Road Safety Officer. “It takes less than a split second for a lapse in concentration to result in a collision.
“It must therefore be made crystal clear to drivers who insist on behaving in this way that they endanger the safety of the public generally, and their own safety too.
“No responsible motorist would drink and drive. We need to ensure that mobile phone devotees understand that talking on the mobile is one of the most hazardous things that can be done while in charge of a motor car.”
In 2008, there was 41,243 offences for holding a mobile phone while driving, the third highest offence behind speeding and driving without a safety belt.
Any person found holding a mobile phone faces up to four penalty points and a fine of €2,000 if convicted.