A road safety charity has called on smartphone manufacturers and the government to work together to develop technological safeguards that minimise the risk of drivers being distracted by their mobile phone handset while behind the wheel.
Representatives of the Department for Transport and mobile phone manufacturers are expected to meet this month to discuss how they might collaborate to address issues relating to road safety. IAM RoadSmart says it wants to see the introduction of penalties and incentives to ensure drivers aren't tempted to use their handsets while on the road.
"It isn’t enough for the providers of this technology to simply say ‘it is up to the individual’. Every phone in use today already comes with a driving mode that can cut out calls, but they are very rarely used," said Neil Greig, director of policy and research at IAM RoadSmart. "This would suggest that carrots or sticks may be needed to actually get people to use any new approach."
Mr Greig recommended that employers should be incentivised to adopt new technologies as well as to ensure compliance with relevant road safety policies. He also suggested motorists could be penalised with reduced insurance cover should they fail to make use of new apps aimed at preventing them from using their mobiles while driving. A 2015 survey carried out by Brake found that younger motorists were most likely to use smartphone handsets when driving.
"The actual detail of the new technology will have to be worked out. But with accurate GPS and more sensitive movement sensors in most phones, it should be possible to target the driver’s phone whilst still allowing the ever growing range of connected car services such as sat-nav and traffic/tourist information," he added.
However, telematics technology is already playing a vital role with regards to road safety. Fleet operators are already using telematics to uphold road safety standards. Telematics provides fleet managers with insight across a wide range of areas - including driver conduct and vehicle condition - as well as allowing for dynamic routing and vehicle tracking. This reduces the need to contact drivers by phone, so they're less likely to use their handset when they're out on the road.
What's more, 365° in-cab cameras are also being used to monitor driver actions behind the wheel. The knowledge that employees are being monitored by an in-cab camera acts as a further deterrent to using smartphones while driving, as well as providing valuable detail into what actions cause less than optimal behaviour.
While the proliferation technology has provided drivers with more potential distractions, it is also being used to minimise them and significantly enhance overall driving standards. Telematics is a valuable tool not just for ensuring compliance with road safety regulations, but it is also making a huge contribution to driver training and development.