Hatfield boffins launch mobile phone use survey

DESPITE being illegal since December 2003, a huge number of motorists still use their mobile phones while driving.

Now two boffins at the University of Hertfordshire are conducting research to try and find out why.

Traffic psychologist Dr Mark Sullman and researcher Kirsty Harrod have launched a survey aimed at finding out more about mobile phone use in general, and to identify why some people use their handhelds while driving and others do not.

Dr Sullman said: “Surprisingly, there is not a great deal of research on the reasons why UK drivers continue to use their handheld phones while driving.

“But research on car crashes in the United States found that driver distraction was a contributing factor in 78 per cent of the crashes they investigated.

“Driving distracted is also very common, with another American study finding that, on average, drivers engage in a distracting activity once every six minutes.

“Although there are a lot of potential distracters while driving, one of the most common is the use of a mobile phone.”

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When the law changed in 2003 it was largely ignored, with critics saying the �30 fixed penalty notice dished out wasn’t enough of a deterrent.

Legislation was made tougher in February 2007, with the penalty becoming �60 and three points on the offender’s licence.

Dr Sullman, a senior lecturer at the Hatfield uni’s school of psychology, added: “Despite this, many people still continue to use their handheld mobile phones while driving, not only to talk to others, but also to send and read text messages. “

The confidential survey contains questions to measure how often respondents use their mobile to text or talk (driving and not driving) and also the attitudes and beliefs regarding using a phone while behind the wheel.

To take part in the survey, you must have a valid licence to drive in the UK, have driven at least once in the past six months and own a mobile phone.

The online survey, which should take 15 minutes to complete, is completely anonymous. Click on the link above right to take part.