Scots van drivers ‘worst for phone use at wheel’

VAN drivers in Scotland are the worst offenders in Britain for using mobile phones at the wheel, a joint Transport Scotland-UK Department for Transport survey showed today.

A van driver speaks on his mobile phone while driving. Picture: Ian Rutherford

A total of 3.6 per cent of van drivers north of the Border - nearly one in 25 - were seen using phones while on the move compared to 2.5 per cent in England.

The figures compare with 1.6 per cent for car drivers across Britain.

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Young drivers were the most likely to use phones - 5.2 per cent of 17 to 29-year-olds were recorded.

The survey, which included nearly 13,500 drivers in Scotland, also found more were seen holding a phone in their hand, such as for texting or internet use, than at their ear for making calls.

The Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM) said phone use should be a road safety priority, with greater enforcement to increase the fear of being caught.

The IAM estimated the figures meant more than 35,000 drivers in Scotland were breaking the law every day.

Neil Greig, its director of policy and research, said: “Campaigners routinely talk about the inherent dangers of the distraction caused by mobile phone usage, but drivers never believe they will be caught.

“Tackling mobile phone usage must be a government priority for 2015.

“People must have the fear of being caught increased as we believe this is the only viable deterrent, but that needs an increase in visible policing.”

Mr Greig also called for sensors to be fitted to mobiles that would disable them when vehicles were moving.

AA president Edmund King said: “These figures suggest van drivers in Scotland are more likely to text and drive than talk and drive.

“One possible explanation might be that mobile phone reception in some areas of Scotland is relatively poor and therefore if a driver is intent on using a phone, their text is more likely to get through than a phone call.

“The only way to counter White Van Man’s addiction to mobiles is to have more cops in cars and for employers to take their duty of care more seriously.”

Professor Stephen Glaister, director of the RAC Foundation, said: “Our research shows texting at the wheel impairs drivers’ reactions as much as being at the old drink-drive limit.

“The big concern is that with more and more technological and visual distractions in our lives and in our cars the risks will increase.”

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “Any activity which takes drivers’ attention away from the road is potentially dangerous. That is why we are working with our road safety partners to promote measures combating driver distraction.

“This includes educational initiatives, such as those developed by Road Safety Scotland, aimed at young people, and adoption of the National Driver Alertness Course as an alternative to prosecution where appropriate.

Chief Superintendent Iain Murray, head of road policing for Police Scotland: “Using a mobile phone has a significant impact on concentration and cognitive ability when driving, and targeting those who continue to put themselves, and others, at risk in this way remains a priority for all police officers in Scotland.

“While these figures reveal a large number of motorists are still using their phones, the research shows a reduction from the last time the exercise was carried out, and we have also seen a reduction in the numbers of offences which officers are detecting this year.

“Of greatest concern is the business use of phones, and those seen driving vans and other commercial vehicles, is higher than that for other road users.”