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Selfie-ish driving: Young driver smartphone habits endangering road users

Nearly one in 10 of motorists admit they have taken a selfie while driving, with younger drivers even more likely to, according to research by the Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM).

The road safety charity asked 500 drivers about how they use their smartphones and tablets in the car. Nine per cent admitted they had taken a cheeky selfie at the wheel ‘in the last month’. That figure rose to 15 per cent for 18 to 24-year olds.

The worst offenders were found to be 25 to 35-year-olds, with 19 per cent admitting to a driving selfie. Meanwhile eight per cent of drivers said they used a video-calling application such as Skype or FaceTime, rising to 16 per cent for 18 to 24-year-olds.

Seven per cent of drivers even went as far as watching videos and streaming catch-up television, with you young crowd once again making this common; 13 per cent for the 18 to 24-year-olds and 15 per cent for the 25 to 32-year-olds.

More than a third of those aged 25 to 32 and just over a quarter of the 18 to 24 bracket admitted to using the internet on a smartphone or tablet in some form behind the wheel.

This is despite a study by IAM from 2012 – called ‘don’t poke me I’m driving’ – that revealed using a smartphone at the wheel is, in fact, more dangerous than driving at the legal alcohol limit or when under the influence of cannabis.

The reasoning, IAM explained, is because reactions are slower, there’s difficulty staying in the right lane and less ability to adapt to changing circumstances. 

IAM CEO Sarah Sillars said: “Everyone knows how dangerous using a smartphone or tablet is while driving. That’s why it’s shocking to see new trends like taking selfies and making video calls becoming common practice.   

“Safe driving is everyone’s responsibility and more must be done to catch drivers using these devices dangerously by increasing the fines and points for smartphone and tablet use at the wheel – there is simply no excuse. 

“Campaigns must also be introduced that raise awareness of the prevalence of the issue in society and make this behaviour socially unacceptable as drink-driving”. 

Even though it appears a growing number of motorists are ignoring the law, drivers given points for mobile phone use dropped by 40 per cent in 2014.

Transport Psychology head Shaun Helman told Sky News: “Smartphones have not been around very long, mobile phones a bit longer so it’s not really become a socially unacceptable thing to do yet, and I think that’s going to take some time to change.” 

This is actually one of a number of studies that have looked into selfie habits. Research by Ford found one in three Brits have broken the law in a moment of vanity.

A 32-year-old from the US died seconds after taking a selfie and updating her Facebook page in 2014.

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