Keele researchers to contribute to efforts to reduce mobile phone use by drivers

Criminologist Dr Helen Wells, and PhD student Leanne Savigar, have been awarded a grant from the Road Safety Trust, to review the range of innovations currently operating aimed at reducing mobile phone use by drivers.

The project started this month and coincides with this week's national police operation to stop drivers using their phones at the wheel. The study will encourage practitioners to engage with academic research to help them design and evaluate research-informed interventions.

Having a hand-held or hands-free mobile phone conversation while driving has been found to quadruple the likelihood of a driver being involved in an incident, according to the World Health Organisation.

Dr Wells said: “The issue of mobile device use by drivers is one of the biggest challenges facing road safety at the present time. Although the use of handheld devices has been illegal since 2003, the rate of technology development is fast outstripping the ability of the law to keep pace, and of the road safety community to offer an effective way to tackle the problem.”

Ms Savigar said: “The recent increase in the fine and penalty points for mobile phone use while driving will have a limited deterrent effect if drivers perceive little risk of actually being caught and if, as research suggests, even some police officers are unsure as to what actually constitutes ‘use’ or even a ‘mobile phone’. For these reasons, it’s clear that attempts to reduce death and injury as a result of mobile phone use by drivers cannot focus solely on the law enforcement activities of the police, and that the sharing of knowledge between practitioners is vital if the intended outcomes are to be achieved.”

The project will produce its findings in a compendium of notable practice from across the road safety and roads policing communities, as well as presenting its findings at academic conferences and directly to practitioners to share best practice. Innovators in the field will be able to benefit from academic input into their own operations through ‘knowledge exchange consultations’ with the research team.

To follow the progress of the project via Twitter follow @MobileEngaged, or for more information visit the project website.