Tune in to road safety and turn your phone off


The University of Leeds hosted the Yorkshire launch of Road Safety Week, with drivers being urged to "tune in to road safety."

The University, which boasts a wealth of transport expertise at the Institute for Transport Studies, was chosen as the site for the launch of road safety charity Brake’s campaign as it was revealed that 42,000 Yorkshire drivers have points on their licence for using their mobile phone at the wheel or being otherwise distracted.

Professor Oliver Carsten, Professor of Transport Safety at the Institute for Transport Studies, said: “There is a huge amount of scientific evidence that distraction when you’re driving, whether talking on a phone – hand-held or hands-free – or being distracted by anything else, greatly increases your risk of crashing. This is because you need your full concentration in order to continually take in and assess risks as you’re driving.

“Many drivers believe they’re able to carry out a non-driving-related task without it affecting their driving, for example using a phone or eating a sandwich, but in reality this isn’t the case.”

The campaign calls on drivers across Yorkshire to tune into road safety, to prevent appalling crashes caused by multi-tasking at the wheel. It is being launched almost a decade after a ban on using hand-held mobiles at the wheel was introduced and coincides with a week-long enforcement campaign.

Ellen Booth, senior campaigns officer at Brake, said: “Many people who wouldn't dream of drink-driving are succumbing to using their phone and other distractions while driving, oblivious that the effect can be similar and the consequences just as horrific. The campaign this year is calling on drivers to tune into road safety: turn off your phone or put it in the boot, and never try to multi-task at the wheel. We’re also appealing to everyone to refuse to chat to someone on the phone who’s driving, to help them arrive safely.”

Councillor Richard Lewis, Leeds City Council Executive Board Member with Responsibility for Development and the Economy, said: “We had our lowest ever rate for people killed on roads in Leeds in 2012, but even one death or injury is one too many. Many crashes could be avoided if road users acted differently and this is why we are pleased to support Brake’s Road Safety Week and would remind everyone that using a mobile phone whilst behind the wheel is dangerous and completely unacceptable.”

Ian Bitcon, Area Manager, West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue, said: “Each year a number of crashes happen on the roads of West Yorkshire, often with devastating consequences that change people’s lives immeasurably from the moment of impact. We fully support the Brake, road safety charity, which plays a vital part in educating people as to the consequences of a crash and how important it is that they drive responsibly.”

Brake and partners Specsavers and Romex are revealing statistics confirming the extent of driver distraction and its impact on vulnerable road users in Yorkshire:

  • More than 42,000 Yorkshire drivers have points on their licence for using their mobile phone at the wheel or being otherwise distracted (postcode figures). One in 16 (6.4%) of these drivers have six points or more for driving distracted and four in five (80%) are male*; 
  • Six in ten Yorkshire school children (58%) report being driven by a driver talking on a phone and eight in 10 (79%) have spotted drivers on mobile phones outside their school or home – suggesting the majority of children are being endangered by drivers for the sake of a call or text. 
Road Safety Week is the UK’s flagship event to promote safer road use, coordinated annually by the charity Brake and involving thousands of schools, communities and organisations across the country.

Further information

Professor Oliver Carsten is available for interview. Please contact Ben Jones, Press Officer on 0113 34 38059 or email B.P.Jones@leeds.ac.uk

*Analysis of Freedom of Information requests to the DVLA by Brake in August 2013.