Coalition calls for driving disconnection

A group of road charities and organisations has called for an ‘opt out’ driving mode to be included as standard across all mobile handsets.

The coalition has written to Android, Microsoft and the GSMA (Groupe Spéciale Mobile Association), urging them to include technology to automatically prevent distracting alerts while driving, saying it is urgently needed to tackle ‘the needless deaths and serious injuries caused by drivers using handheld mobile phones behind the wheel.’

The announcement comes ahead of Apple’s expected release this week of its iOS 11 system update, which will include a ‘Do Not Disturb While Driving’ mode that detects when someone is driving and turns off calls, text messages and notifications.

Brake and the RAC’s Be Phone Smart campaign, together with Brighton and Hove City Council, the Parliamentary Advisory Council on Transport Safety, RED Driving School, Road Safety GB and RoadPeace have applauded the new iPhone feature.

In the letter, the coalition urges Android and Microsoft to follow suit, pledging to feature an opt-out driving mode in their next updates which will: automatically switch on when sensors in the handset detect the user is driving; turn the screen blank and suspend any push notifications; be able to send automatic replies via SMS to anyone contacting the user to inform them that they are driving; only permit the handset to be used in conjunction with a hands-free device when enabled; and provide evidence that the phone was in ‘drive safe’ mode – potentially leading to reduced insurance premiums.

The coalition concludes its letter by stating that ‘no call, text or social media update is worth risking a life’ and that the mobile phone industry has ‘a major part to play in reducing the distraction caused by phones in the car’, reducing deaths and serious injuries across the globe.

Brake director of campaigns, Jason Wakeford, said, ‘The illegal use of handheld mobile phones when driving is a growing menace and a major threat to road safety. Research shows that using a phone at the wheel affects reaction times as much as drink driving, increasing the chances of a crash. As a society, we have become addicted to our mobile phones, but a split second distraction caused by a call, text or notification behind the wheel can be deadly. The industry must play its part and include technology as standard which helps keep drivers’ attention on the road, saving lives and preventing serious injuries.’

RAC Be Phone Smart spokesman Pete Williams, added, ‘Illegal handheld phone use is one of the biggest in-car problems of our time and it will take a concerted effort to get the message across to drivers that it’s simply not okay. We need organisations to work together and to come up with creative ways of helping drivers realise that no text or tweet while driving is worth the risk. Apple’s imminent iOS update is a major step forward and will mean that handsets used by millions of people will, for the first time, include in-built software that can reduce the distraction risk posed by handheld phones. Now we need the other major operating systems – Google’s Android and Microsoft’s Windows Mobile – to follow suit.’