A survey of Irish drivers by Liberty Insurance has found that 67 per cent of us admit to using our mobile phones when behind the wheel. Given that admission rates usually lag behind actual rates, that probably means that fully 100 per cent of us actually still fiddle with our phones when driving.
Irish drivers still check texts while at the wheel
One quarter of those who admit to mobile phone use also admit to using their phones to browse the internet and read text messages, in spite of the abundance of new in-car software that will read your texts out for you. 61 per cent of Irish drivers admit to glancing at incoming texts and/or calls on their phone, compared to 40 per cent of drivers in the UK. In addition to drivers sending texts, WhatsApp messages and emails when driving, a further one in four (25 per cent) claim to read emails and texts while behind the wheel.
Approximately one in five drivers in Ireland (21 per cent) admit to using social media apps such as Facebook, Instagram, and/or dating apps while at a stop sign or red light. Over one third (39 per cent) of Irish drivers read emails, texts, and/or browse the internet while at a stop sign or red light, versus just 24 per cent of UK drivers.
But wait, it gets worse. According to Liberty's survey, taken ahead of the August Bank Holiday weekend - usually an annual black weekend for road safety - out of the 8,010 Irish drivers who responded to the survey, 45 per cent admit to 'multi-tasking' - a banal phrase that actually means 'eating or applying makeup whilst on the road.'
42 per cent admit to breaking the speed limit when running late (ahead of our cousins in the UK, only 36 per cent of whom admit to doing so) while another nine per cent say that they 'drive more aggressively' when late, including tailgating and cutting off other cars at junctions.
Oh, and there's a massive dose of hypocrisy in all of this. The research shows that a quarter of Irish motorists (25 per cent) admit that their phone is one of the biggest distractions while driving. 76 per cent claim that other drivers' driving behaviours, including 'using a phone,' is amongst the most prominent distractions they experience while driving.
Take extra care on the Bank Holiday
Commenting on the research, Sean Brett of Liberty Insurance, said: "The August Bank Holiday is one of the busiest weekends of the year on Irish roads and we urge all drivers to exercise responsibility and care when getting behind the steering wheel this weekend. The Road Safety Authority has done some great work in recent years in working toward making our roads safer and the year on year reduction in road fatalities and accidents bears this out. However, in parallel with its efforts in making our roads safer, we all have a personal responsibility to take greater personal ownership for our own driving habits when getting behind the wheel.
"This starts with giving 'driving' your undivided attention and resisting the temptation to multitask, look at one's phone or respond to text messages, tune in the radio or apply make-up when on the road. No matter how experienced or accomplished a driver may be, once they pick up their phone or glance down to read a WhatsApp, their field of vision is immediately compromised, and they are endangering themselves and others inside and outside their vehicle.
"Our research found that half of Irish drivers admit to keeping their phone visible while driving, which is significantly higher than their peers in the UK. Drivers should make it a habit to put their phone somewhere out of sight like the glove compartment, or even activate the Do Not Disturb feature to avoid the temptation to reach for it while in the vehicle. On the rare occasion when a driver may need to access their phone while behind the wheel, they should pull over to a safe location and stop the vehicle before taking out their phone.
"Finally, we would urge drivers to remain alert at all times on the road this weekend. It is estimated that the mind makes 100 decisions per mile driven. If you are traveling on a road you use often, a driver may zone out, putting them at greater risk of an accident or near miss. Therefore, if you are aware of your concentration dipping or your mind drifting, pull over where it's safe to do so, take a break, get out and stretch your legs, maybe have a tea or coffee. These simple steps will help you and your loved ones enjoy a safe and happy August Bank Holiday."