Eyes and minds on the road, hands on the wheel!

Mon 8 Jun, 2015

Firefighters are urging drivers to keep their eyes and minds on the road and their hands on their steering wheels!

It’s just one of the safety messages at the heart of the Chief Fire Officers’ Association’s Road Safety Week, which starts today.

Keith Wheeler, Buckinghamshire Fire & Rescue Service’s road safety manager, said: "Distractions can be fatal. Never put yourself and others in danger for the sake of a phone call, text or other activity that can wait."

Distracted driving activities include using a mobile phone, texting, and even eating. Using in-vehicle technologies such as navigation systems can also be a source of distraction. 

While any of these distractions can endanger the driver and others, texting while driving is especially dangerous because you are taking your eyes off the road, your hands off the steering wheel and your mind off your driving.

Keith added: "Firefighters witness first-hand the terrible aftermath of road crashes. They are frequently called out to free a driver or passenger trapped in a vehicle after a collision, often because the driver was distracted, or the vehicle was being driven at an inappropriate speed.

“Sadly, for some of them, there is nothing the emergency services can do to save them from life-changing injuries or worse.”

Buckinghamshire Fire & Rescue Service works closely with road safety teams and the other emergency services to try to reduce the death and injury toll on local roads.

The work includes collaborating on Safe Drive Stay Alive road safety presentations to thousands of sixth-formers and college students in Buckinghamshire and Milton Keynes. These take place every year in High Wycombe and Milton Keynes.

The organisation also demonstrates the technique used to free people who are trapped in vehicles after crashes - called an extrication - at public events such as open days (see picture above).

Key messages 

  • There is no safe way to use a phone while driving. Turn it off or put it on silent, and put it out of reach.
  • The biggest distractions for drivers are the passengers in their car.
  • Just drive! Eating, drinking or smoking while driving reduces your reaction times.
  • In-car technology can be distracting. Set the systems before you drive, and pull over in a safe place if you need to adjust them, pull over in a safe place. 

Facts and figures 

  • Road collisions are the leading cause of death for young adults aged between 15 and 19. 
  • You’re four times more likely to crash if you use a mobile phone while driving. 
  • A survey of 1,000 young people found that nearly two-thirds had read a text while driving and nearly a half had sent one. 
  • Driver reaction times are 50 per cent slower while talking on a phone. 

Driver distraction – the law

  • It’s illegal to drive using hand-held phones or similar devices. 
  • The rules are the same if you’re stopped at traffic lights or queuing in traffic. 
  • It’s illegal to use a hand-held phone or similar device when supervising a learner driver. 

Penalties for using your phone while driving 

  • You can get an automatic fixed penalty notice if you’re caught using a hand-held phone while driving or riding. You’ll get three penalty points on your licence and a fine of £100. 
  • Your case could also go to court and you could be disqualified from driving or riding and get a maximum fine of £1,000. 
  • Drivers of buses or goods vehicles could get a maximum fine of £2,500. 

New drivers 

  • You’ll lose your licence if you get six or more penalty points within two years of passing your test.
  • You may use hands-free phones, satellite navigation systems and two-way radios when you’re driving or riding. However, if the police think you’re distracted and not in control of your vehicle, you could still get stopped and penalised.