Horsham firm highlights drivers’ worrying addiction to smartphones

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Three million tweets, Snapchats, emails, WhatsApps, Facebook and Instagram posts are sent by motorists while driving per week in the UK, according to a Horsham based company.

New research out today from MORE TH>N depicts the full extent of Britons’ addiction to their smartphones which cause them to regularly use it when driving, with one in five (18%) of the 3,000 motorists surveyed owning up to using their mobile behind the wheel, despite the new harsher punishments that came into force at the start of this month for those caught in the act by police.

Of those admitting to using their smartphones while driving (18%), the study found that the use of messaging apps such as texting and WhatsApp (51%) topped the list of the most common means of using the phone by drivers, followed closely by making of phone calls (44%), and streaming videos from YouTube and TV shows from the likes of Netflix and Amazon Prime (9%).

As part of the research respondents were also asked to reveal how many times they posted on their social media accounts and sent emails in a given journey.

These results were then measured against official data on how many people currently hold a UK Driver’s Licence to infer the full extent of the nation’s illegal mobile phone usage from behind the wheel each week.

Using this method, the study found that on average 1,964,953 Snapchat, Instagram pictures and WhatsApp messages, 576,967 emails, 229,553 tweets and 508,975 Facebook posts are sent from the behind the wheel each week, revealing the shocking extent of our social media addiction, which shows we’re unable to ever fully disconnect ourselves from our smartphones, even when driving.

Perhaps more worryingly, the research revealed that 9% of people are so gripped by the latest BBC drama or Netflix binge-watch that they admit to streaming an average of 2.5 hours video content per week from the driver’s seat. This could mean that approximately 1,943,360 hours’ worth of video footage is being watched behind the wheel on a weekly basis when people should be focusing on the road, posing an inconceivable amount of risk to both themselves and others.

To affirm the potential dangers of using your phone when driving, the study also asked those who have ever been in an accident as a result of using their mobile to state what they were doing on their phone at the time.

Social media addicts should take note, as the results found that browsing and posting on Facebook was the most likely mobile phone activity to result in an accident (19%).

Those married to their job need also be careful, as this was followed by the checking and sending of emails (11%).

The new study has been carried out to mark the launch of MORE TH>N’s new ‘Give Your Mobile The Boot’ campaign, which is encouraging motorists to put their mobiles in the boot of the car before they begin their journey, so they are not tempted to use them while driving.

It has been created to coincide with the new laws that came into force earlier this month which mean drivers that are now caught using their mobile phone behind the wheel will have six points put on their licence, and be subjected to a £200 fine – double what it was previously.

While you might expect these harsher penalties to cause motorists to think twice about using their phone while driving, the research showed this may not be the case after all.

Two fifths of people (41%) in fact confessed to being completely unaware of the new law change. Worse yet, 43% of those surveyed who have been in an accident or pulled over for using their mobile when driving in the past, said that it hasn’t deterred them from continuing to use their phone behind the wheel.

So why do so many people do it if there are so many potential negative repercussions of doing so? The results point to the fact it is borne out of people being addicted to their smartphones, with a quarter (23%) of those surveyed admitting they struggle to put their phone down.

This addiction is a real medical condition, and has been scientifically termed as Phone Separation Anxiety (PSA) - also known as Nomophobia which is the phobia of being without your mobile device4.

To help people break their addiction to a smartphone and succeed in giving their mobile the boot, MORE TH>N has worked with Amanda Hills, a psychologist and lecturer specialising in addictions, to create a five-step guide5 which people are encouraged to watch ahead of a journey to help them overcome their PSA.

STEP ONE: BREATHING - Start by taking a couple of deep breaths. Keeping your mouth closed, breathe in gently through your nose to the upper chest, feeling the lungs expand, exhale and repeat a few times. Practicing breathing exercises for five minutes each morning and before bed, will start to train your body and mind to de-stress, and relieve early stages of anxiety.

STEP TWO: KNOW YOUR TRIGGERS – It is important to know your triggers and recognise you have a need. Give yourself space to ask ‘What do I really want to pay attention to now? What’s the most important priority?’ In this case it’s focusing on driving safely.

STEP THREE: STRETCH – Try sitting comfortably on a chair or on the floor with your eyes closed and breathe in and raise your arms out to the side and above your head for a good stretch. As you exhale deeply, think of letting go of all stress and bring arms back down to your sides.

STEP FOUR: PLAN AHEAD - Make it a habit to answer important emails and messages 30 minutes before the car journey and tell people you won’t be available until you’re out of the car. You can even try putting your phone on flight mode for a few hours a day to practice. This will help you begin to realise you don’t need your phone all the time, and the lack of vibrations will stop you reaching for it.

STEP FIVE: DISTANCE YOURSELF - Try and decrease your phone usage over time. Leave it in another room when you sleep - physically separating yourself from your mobile device will re-wire your brain in readiness to lock it in your car boot before you drive.

Amanda Hills commented: “‘These results confirm there are growing numbers of people suffering from an addiction to their phones, which is clearly a huge concern for safety on the road whilst driving. To try and help curb this addiction I have created a simple five step guide designed to help relax, de-stress and relieve anxiety to watch ahead of a car journey. Following these steps regularly may reduce the need to use a smartphone in the car and assist in breaking a phone habit.’