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  • News

Smartphones are making drivers stupid

Monday, 26th August, 2019 7:59am

Story by Tony McCullagh
Smartphones are making drivers stupid

Phones are a dangerous distraction when driving. PHOTO: BIGSTOCK

Smartphones are making drivers stupid

Phones are a dangerous distraction when driving. PHOTO: BIGSTOCK

SOMETIMES it can be difficult to identify bad driving in Dublin as we tend to be stopped in traffic jams quite a bit, particularly when on the M50 or in the city centre.

It’s really only when you traverse the country that poor driving habits are laid bare. Such was the case last week when I drove back to Dublin after a weekend in the west of Ireland.

We were making good time, while staying within the speed limit. Suddenly, a car pulled up dangerously close behind us, as if it was about to overtake. But no - the driver just sat on our tail for the next half an hour or so. She backed off slightly when I put my hazard lights on but after a minute had returned to within a couple of feet of my rear bumper.

If I had been forced to brake suddenly, she would have rear-ended us, putting all our lives in danger.

Either this driver was very stupid or very distracted. I came to the conclusion that she had completely zoned out and was most likely checking social media updates on her phone.

I was probably not wrong. A recent survey carried out by Liberty Insurance found that 67 percent of Irish motorists admit to using their phone while driving, with one in four browsing the internet and reading texts.

It also found:

• 45 percent admit to multi-tasking while driving, including eating or applying makeup;

• A quarter of Irish motorists (25 percent) admit that their phone is one of the biggest distractions while driving; 

• 42 percent of Irish drivers admit to breaking the speed limit when running late as opposed to 36 percent of UK drivers;

• Over three in five (61 percent) of motorists in Ireland admit to glancing at incoming text messages and/or calls on their phone while driving;

• A further nine percent of Irish motorists say they drive aggressively, tailgating other vehicles and/or cutting other drivers off when running late.

Irish drivers’ phone usage isn’t just limited to texting or emails. Approximately one in five drivers in Ireland (21 percent) admit to using social media apps such as Facebook, Instagram and/or dating apps while at a stop sign or red light. Over one third (39 percent) read emails, texts and/or browse the internet while at a stop sign or red light, versus just 24 percent of UK drivers.

The proliferation of smartphones and our obsession with social media has had an extremely negative effect on our daily lives. It’s somewhat ironic that while new technology is now used to make our cars safer, it’s our addiction to gadgets and the need to stay connected to every single cyber utterance that could prove fatal on our roads. 

One thing’s for sure: smartphones are certainly making us dumber drivers.

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