In the past few years, social media has become a daily, or even hourly, part of millions of people’s lives. Since the advent of the mobile phone, drivers are facing more and more potential distractions whilst driving. A UK survey has reported that 27% of people have admitted to illegally using Facebook whilst driving. This distraction puts the driver and innocent people at risk to serious consequences and endangerment, when the driver should be concentrating on the road.
Adrian Walsh, Director of RoadSafe says: “It’s a frightening thought that people are checking their smartphones whilst driving. Many studies from across the world prove that drivers using phones are slower to respond than those who are just over the drink-drive limit. It is dangerous to use a phone – even hands free when driving.”
These are shocking figures considering that drivers are four times more likely to crash using their mobile phone behind the wheel. The problem is even more prevalent amongst university and college students, a US survey found that some students are so addicted that they at least 44% check their Facebook before brushing their teeth in the morning. Although there is a lot of emphasis placed on personal social media activities, social media for business use is also part of the problem.
One fifth of those surveyed confessed to be unable to go fifteen minutes without checking their smartphones for a range of reasons including emails, Facebook posts and Tweets. The increased efficiency of a smartphone is also an increased distraction. Clients, colleagues and suppliers now expect answers and issues to be handled almost immediately.
Gareth Kloet, Head of Car Insurance at Confused.com says: “Our research shows that although people are aware of the consequences involved, they struggle to tear themselves away from their mobile phones and social media. Using these devices, while driving, is incredibly dangerous.”
In support of how dangerous social media is whilst driving, a dramatic fall in traffic accidents this week has been directly linked to the three-day disruption in BlackBerry services. Traffic accidents fell 20 per cent from average rates on the days BlackBerry users were unable to use its messaging service. In Abu Dhabi, the number of accidents this week fell 40 per cent and there were no fatal accidents, when usually on average, there is a fatal accident every two days.
“Absolutely nothing has happened in the past week in terms of killings on the road and we’re really glad about that,” Brig Gen Al Harethi, director of the Abu Dhabi Police traffic department said. “People are slowly starting to realise the dangers of using their phone while driving. The roads became much safer when BlackBerry stopped working.”
So how are we to receive the innovation from US car manufacturer General Motors (GM), ‘a new social media interactive program for the car’? An upgrading of the OnStar service will allow drivers to verbally dictate messages to update their Facebook status via the OnStar Facebook application. The service allows subscribers to listen to their most recent news feeds with just a push of a button and removing the needs to fiddle with a mobile device. It could just be like listening to some kind of interactive Facebook Radio.