The #DrivingSelfie: Is Social Media Causing Dangerous Driving?

Since the selfie craze began it has rapidly gone from strength to strength, growing into the social phenomenon that it is today. It has become so popular that the word selfie was actually added to the dictionary in 2013, with over 1 million being taken every day.
Unfortunately our addiction to taking selfies has got out of hand, with a recent study from Ford showing that a third of young drivers admit to taking a selfie behind the wheel. Whilst this may seem harmless to some, there is a good reason for its illegality as figures show that 22% of fatal road traffic accidents involve mobile phone distractions.

Behind the Wheel

According to 2014 government data, the majority of people who use their phone whilst driving hold it in their hand rather than against their ear. This suggests that it’s not phone calls that are the main problem, but messaging and social media. In fact, a study by into how young drivers use their phones whilst driving found that 8% use Twitter, 5% use Instagram and 7% openly take selfies behind the wheel.

If you search Instagram for #DrivingSelfies, you will see that over 27,000 have been taken. On top of this, Snapchat could be seen to be encouraging people to take driving selfies as a result of its speed recording feature. The feature works by calculating how fast you were travelling at the time you took a photo, which could motivate users into trying to ‘outdo’ each other. Although this may have seemed like a harmless idea from the developers over at Snapchat, it definitely gives us cause for concern.

Our Mobile Addiction

There are many reasons you might be compelled to pick up your phone whilst driving. Our smartphones are in under constant barrage of Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp and Twitter notifications, but if you’re afraid of not having your mobile phone on you at all times then you might just have what phycologists are calling ‘nomophobia’.

However, all the nomophobics out there need not worry as they’re not alone. In fact, the latest report from Ofcom shows that the average amount of time spent online has more than doubled, from 9.9 hours a week (10 years ago) to 20.5 hours. A separate report also suggests that the average Briton checks their phone more than 50 times in one day.

Rise in Penalties

Despite the penalty for using a phone while driving being increased three times over the last 12 years, figures show that the number of offences continues to grow each year. Worryingly, the study also found that 57% of drivers admitted that they would reoffend if they were caught.

These figures haven’t slipped under the radar, as the Met Police Commissioner and Shadow Transport Commissioner are both urging for an increase in penalty. The rumoured increase is going to be from three points on your license to 6 points, which definitely puts a hefty price tag on checking your Facebook at the traffic lights.
Cutting It Out

If you think you may have a problem with checking your phone in the car or even just in general, there are steps you can take to put some distance between you and your phone. After all, we weren’t born with a phone in our hands, so it’s not meant to be there 24/7.

Step 1: Turn notifications off

For certain apps that you don’t need notifications for, simply turn off their notifications.

Step 2: Put it on silent

If you’re waiting for an important call, put it back on loud. But try to make a habit of leaving your phone on silent.

Step 3: Leave it at home sometimes

It’s nice to have your phone on you at all times but we’ve survived for hundreds of years without them. Whether it’s a trip to the gym or just to the local shop, try and spend time without your phone in close proximity.

Our phones demand our attention. Whenever notifications come in we drop everything and grab them, but should it be that way? Take control of your phone and decide when you want to check it, rather than letting it interrupt your daily life. This is particularly important to remember when you are driving, as it could put you in a dangerous or costly situation. 

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