RAC Foundation in call for ‘drive-safe mode’ on smartphones

RAC Foundation in call for ‘drive-safe mode’ on smartphones
Smartphones should be kitted out with a “drive-safe mode” to help prevent drivers getting distracted by apps, emails and texts when behind the wheel.

The setting, which would be similar to airplane mode, has been recommended by the RAC Foundation as too many people can be “distracted or overwhelmed with information” while driving.

According to the motoring charity, at least 70 fatal accidents on Britain's roads have “distraction in vehicle” as a contributory factor, while “driving using mobile phone” is cited in around 20 crashes.

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But despite these alarming figures, research from transport think-tank TRL has found that vehicle and phone manufacturers may be falling behind in efforts to limit distractions.

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With no internationally accepted guidelines, tech firms are leaving it to customers to ensure that their use of devices like mobiles and tablets falls within the law.

Industry leaders interviewed by TRL said that the need to limit distractions was not considered a priority in the design stage as it would be a commercial handicap.

Instead, drivers face a penalty of three points on their licence and a fine of £100 if they use a handheld mobile phone while driving in the UK.

Britain has 38.5 million drivers, and two-thirds of the population now own a smartphone, according to the foundation.

There are also apps which drivers can voluntarily download on to their phones to help limit their functionality and hence reduce distraction.

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Steve Gooding, director of the RAC Foundation, said: “In many ways smartphone technology and mobile communications are a godsend for road users, allowing us to do everything from getting directions to dodging congestion to calling for help if we break down.

“Yet the more functionality our cars and electronic devices have, the greater the chance that drivers get distracted or overwhelmed with information, particularly when using smartphones as sat-navs while all the other functions are still ‘live’.

“There may come a day when autonomous cars allow us to spend all our time looking at our mobile, tablet and computer screens. Until then as drivers we need to make sure we have our eyes on the road.

“A key question is where responsibility lies. Many in the industry say the onus must be on the user rather than the manufacturer.”

Copyright Press Association 2016. Motoring News articles do not reflect the RAC's views unless clearly stated.