Did you know that drivers who use their phones while driving are four times more likely to be in a car accident? That’s like playing Russian roulette with your car keys.
And it gets worse. Using a mobile phone while driving caused 17 deaths and 499 injuries in the UK in 2020. And a further 55 deaths and 3,119 injuries in collisions happened because of a distraction of some sort in the driver’s car.
So whether you’ve borrowed your friend’s car using short term car insurance or are driving your own car, it’s best to keep away from distractions while driving. Staying safe behind the wheel doesn’t have to be hard. Let’s look at a few ways to do that.
How to stop getting distracted by your phone when driving
We’re conditioned to look at our phones every few minutes these days. The constant barrage of notifications, the calls, the texts, the “fix” we get from checking our social media… phone addiction is real.
But, being glued to your phone while driving is neither safe nor legal. So how do you make sure you’re staying safe behind the wheel? Here are a couple of tips.
Use it for entertainment sensibly
Phones can be a great way to make a long journey pass faster. But rather than fumbling through playlists at the traffic light (illegal, by the way), create your Spotify driving playlist before you set off. Or queue up your favourite audio and podcast.
Make sure it’s connected to your phone via Bluetooth or AUX cable before you leave. Test the volume. Hit play. And then set off. That way, your phone will do its work “entertaining” you in the background, and you won’t even have to touch it.
Out of sight, out of mind
Sometimes the best way to keep yourself from getting distracted by your phone is by simply placing it somewhere where you can’t see or reach it. This might mean putting it in your backpack or purse, or even in the glove compartment. Whatever works best for you!
If you can’t see those WhatsApp notifications pop up, then you won’t be tempted to look at your phone.
Use the Do Not Disturb function
Turn on the Do Not Disturb function on your phone before you start driving. This way, you won’t receive any notifications or calls that could distract you from driving. And remember: Whatever it is, it can wait until you reach your next destination. To put things into context, answering a text behind the wheel is six times more likely to lead to a car accident than driving drunk. Not that we’re encouraging either activity.
Safely using your mobile phone as a SatNav
Putting your phone in the glove compartment is a nice way to solve the distraction issue, but let’s face it: many of us use our mobiles in place of a SatNav. Whether you love Google Maps or can’t get enough of Waze, you need to be looking at your phone to actually get you from point A to point B. So how do you do that safely and legally?
What does the law say about using your phone as a SatNav?
To start with, let’s make sure we’re on the right side of the law. It’s perfectly legal to use your phone as a SatNav, as long as it’s mounted safely, doesn’t obscure your view of the road, and it’s basically hands-free. So, if you’re planning on holding onto your phone and peering at it for directions while driving, think again – it’s illegal and also dangerous.
But the law goes a bit further than that – you can’t touch your phone at all while driving. This means your SatNav must be set up before you set off. And, if you get a call while driving, you’ll need to ignore it unless you can use a voice command to answer it.
What is hands-free in the context of driving?
You’ve probably heard the term “hands-free” thrown around a lot when it comes to driving. But do you know what it actually means? The gov.uk website has a pretty clear definition which is worth checking out when you sort out your hands-free kit so you can drive safely and legally.
So, how do you achieve this hands-free bliss? You could use a Bluetooth headset, so you can pretend you’re making important business calls while dissecting last night’s episode of Love is Blind with your BFF. Or, you could use voice commands, so you can yell at your phone from across the car like the boss you are.
If you’re more of a visual person, you can use a dashboard holder or mat, a windscreen mount, or even a built-in satnav. Just make sure it doesn’t block your view of the road. All of these options are legal, and they’ll keep you from getting fined or worse, causing an accident.
Tips for using your phone SatNav safely
When setting up your phone as a SatNav, make sure it’s mounted securely to your dashboard, mat or windscreen. That means no flimsy holders or balancing acts that could send your phone flying across the car mid-turn.
Before you hit the road, enter your destination into your phone’s SatNav app. Don’t try fiddling with your phone and typing in directions while you’re driving – it’s a recipe for disaster. Plus, Siri and her Google Assistant cousins are more than happy to take voice commands and save you the trouble of typing. And if you can’t use Google or Siri, pull over and park up before you start fiddling with your phone.
What are the consequences of using your phone while driving?
Okay, so you probably understand why it’s not a good idea to use your phone without a hands-free setup while you drive by now.
But, it’s illegal too and carries some serious consequences. You could get smacked with 6 penalty points and a £200 fine. Ouch. But it gets worse – if you’ve passed your driving test in the last 2 years, you could even lose your licence altogether.
Also, you don’t have to even be touching your phone to be penalised. If you don’t have a full view of the road or a police officer decides you’re not properly in control of your vehicle, you could also face a penalty of 3 points on your licence.
And, if you’re caught using your phone while driving, you could even be taken to court and face a potential driving ban or a maximum fine of £1,000 (or a hefty £2,500 if you’re driving a lorry or bus). Yikes.
So, what’s the bottom line? Put down your phone while driving. Not only is it legally required, but it’s also just a common sense safety measure. Your Instagram followers will understand; and if they don’t, well, maybe it’s time to find some new followers.
Distraction-free driving: An overview
We know we’re not reinventing the wheel here (pun intended) but we’re giving you no excuses to fumble with your phones when you should be focusing on the road. The stats speak for themselves, people! If you’re using your phone while driving, you may as well be driving drunk. Your reactions will be slower and you’ll be more likely to hit someone (or something). Not great.
So let’s make sure our phones are set up in advance and hands-free. That way, you get the benefit of having an entertainment system and SatNav working in the background while you focus on what’s really important, i.e. driving without crashing your car.