I am a big advocate of social media. My job revolves around planning and executing social media campaigns, so it’s quite hard not to be! However, I am also a strong believer of maintaining a safe and healthy balance.
Online media can be used to spread awareness, warn people of risks and unite individuals with a common cause, but it can also divide, endanger and even sabotage livelihoods. It’s when technology starts to negatively affect lives – that the line must be drawn.
The need to be constantly connected has led to people jeopardising the safety of themselves and others on the road, and our research has identified that it is not just texting and calling on handheld mobiles that’s the problem.
Our simulator study into smartphone use revealed that use of social media whilst driving increased reaction times by 37.6%. To put this into perspective, driving whilst under the influence of alcohol, has been found to increase reaction times by 10-30%, so an ‘innocent’ scroll through Facebook is far more deadly than you would think.
With the rapid growth of smartphones (which have now taken over laptops as the number one device for internet users in the UK), we are now presented with an even greater breadth of danger in the form of apps and easy internet access.
Last year, we were made aware of a number of severe incidents at home and abroad caused by the use of smartphone apps, either resulting in loss of life, or quality of life. In Dorset, an 86 year old man died in a collision involving another driver, who became distracted at the wheel by a ‘Barbie’ app. Another incident in the States, involved a distracted driver who in the lead up to the crash was busy posting a photo on SnapChat. The cost of the filter-happy snap? A lifetime of disability for the driver of the other vehicle.
So what am I trying to get at with all this? The crux of it is there is a time and a place for social media, and in a car, behind the wheel really isn’t it. I would go so far as to say; even having a phone in a car cradle is not at all acceptable.
It may be legal but it is not safe. Smartphones pose a far greater risk of distraction than, say, a sat nav because of the multitude of features available, which can take your concentration away from the road for a lot longer. Chances are, if you’re peering across at Facebook at a ‘relationship status update’, you couldn’t be any more far removed from the situation on the road or the route you are planning to take.
I love people who interact with our social media accounts but, personally, I don’t ‘like’ a ‘tweet’ behind the wheel. Switch off before you drive off.
By Thenuka Mahendrarasa, IAM RoadSmart’s social media executive