Thursday, 10 May 2012
Drugged, Drunk and Distracted Drivers
Advanced news about the Queen’s Speech, which sets out the legislative agenda for the UK government, noted proposals to equalise the law regarding drug users and drunk drivers, although the proposal is not listed in reports of the actual content. Either way, a big benefit of not spending time behind the wheel is freedom from worrying about the mental and cognitive condition of other drivers - who may have had too many drinks, smoked a joint, done a line or be subject to the effects of numerous other substances. These are all bad for road safety, but distracted driving as a result of mobile telecoms might be even worse – as yesterday’s Quote of the Week from BruceMcF, noted “Driving is something that makes it tricky to respond to a text.” The problem is that drivers won’t stop driving just because they are chatting, tweeting or updating their Facebook pages. If you spend time in a car, and you aren’t worried about this, you should be. The Institute of Advanced Motorists conducted a study using a simulator to check the impact on reaction times of people using telecoms devices whilst driving. The table below summarises the findings. The study shows that driving after consuming alcohol at the legal limit has the lowest impact on driver’s reaction times – top of the list is chatting on the phone, while social networking comes next, then texting. Behavioural economics shows that we are pretty bad at assessing risk and probability, and this is another example - next time you’re behind the wheel, remember that the biggest danger to your personal safety might not be other drivers who are drugged or drunk – it could turn out to be the distracted.