March 1, 2012

Whilst Buckinghamshire is clearly not the sort of place any self respecting person would want to be seen dead in, Bankstone News yields to no man in its admiration for the highly respected Motoring Section of the Bucks Herald, without which we might never have stumbled upon what is surely one of the most shocking news stories of this or any other week.

That news, of course, is the news that social networking at the wheel is massively more dangerous than driving under the influence of booze or cannabis. If the (presumably) award winning team of dedicated journalists on the BH motoring desk hadn’t noticed a press release on this topic in their inbox from pet-foods-to-driving advice firm IAMs and duly pasted it, more or less verbatim, into an otherwise painstakingly-researched article, Bankstone might still be gaily facebooking its way around the countryside – thereby risking life and limb – instead of safely slugging beers or puffing happily on a giant splif.

One in ten of us – according to IAMs research – admit, under no particular duress, to using our phones for social networking or emailing while driving. This equates to a 3.5 million drivers facebooking away (or whatever) whilst in charge of several hurtling tonnes of death-dealing metal on wheels. Although not necessarily all at the same time. Amongst 17-24 years olds – who are virtually certain to crash at any minute anyway – the percentage confessing is around 25%.

To arrive at these shocking conclusions, IAMs put the Transport Research Laboratory’s state-of-the-ark DodgiCar driving simulator to work analysing how young volunteeers coped with facebooking etc whilst controlling a virtual vehicle. The literally astounding findings from these tests showed that facebooking slows driver’s reaction times by around 38 per cent and causes them to “miss key events” frequently. Use of the once-popular social networking site also caused “unintentional lane departures” and failures to respond quickly to cars changing speed up ahead.

Comparing facebookers’ test results with those recorded by alco-freaks, dope-crazed weirdos and texters threw up some fascinating insights (see reaction time retardation table below)

Social networking: 37.6%
Texting: 37.4%
Using hands free mobile phone: 26.5%
Stoned: 21%
Boozed-up to legal limit: 12.5%

IAM chief exec Simon Vest said: “This research shows how incredibly dangerous using smartphones while driving is.” Playfully branding such behaviour as “antisocial networking” he went on to say: “it’s more dangerous than drink driving and it must become just as socially unacceptable.”

Transport Research Lavatory senior researcher Nick Reeb added agrammatically: “Smartphones are incredibly useful and convenient tools when used appropriately and responsibly. Their use for social networking when driving is neither.”

Now IAMs are calling on the Government to “do something.”


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