• New research has found that one in five people have used a non-hands-free mobile phone whilst behind the wheel
  • A further one in 10 admitted to using headphones when driving
  • Following the release of Pokemon GO worldwide, there have been a number of people who have allegedly been hurt whilst playing the game
  • HPL Motors spoke to road safety charity Brake, who are urging pedestrians and drivers to use the app safely

Research conducted by used car specialists HPL Motors has discovered that a worrying number of drivers freely admit to using their smartphone while behind the wheel.

According to a new survey, more than one in five people have used a non-hands-free mobile phone to take a call or text whilst driving. A second survey also showed that more than one in 10 people had listened to music through headphones when in control of a vehicle.

Whilst these statistics on their own may be worrying, concerns over pedestrian and driver safety have been heightened following the launch of the highly popular Pokemon GO game across the world.

Lucy Amos, a spokesperson for the road safety charity Brake, said that the popularity of such games poses a risk to road users:

“With mobile technology becoming ever more available and advanced, it’s becoming the norm for people to be constantly online and connected. The temptation for people to reach for their phone whilst driving or crossing the road is ever increasing, and only encouraged by interactive games like Pokemon GO that are now available to the public.

“There is no single solution to the problem of distracted driving. There will continue to be a need to educate drivers about the risk of using mobiles in (and around) vehicles, alongside strict law enforcement for those who continue to put lives at risk through distracted driving. In the meantime, Brake will continue to call for a total ban on mobile phone use at the wheel.”

Within the first week of the game being released in the United States, there were reports of people being injured whilst allegedly playing. This includes a man from Oregon crashing his car into a tree, and a 15-year-old Pennsylvania student who was hit by a car whilst trying to cross a busy highway to catch Pokemon.

As a result, a number of states have issued warnings and campaigns urging people to stay safe and #DontPokemonAndDrive.

In a statement on the UK release of the game, Niantic commented on the safety concerns that may arise:

“We take player safety seriously and want everybody to have a fantastic time exploring while safely playing Pokemon GO. We encourage all people to be aware of their surroundings and to play with friends or family, especially when you’re exploring unfamiliar places. Please remember to be safe and alert at all times, don’t drive and play, abide by local laws, and respect the locations you visit and people you meet during your exploration.”

Pedestrian safety

Similar to the findings from HPL Motors, a poll conducted by the AA has uncovered further safety concerns for pedestrians.

The survey found that 72% of drivers will regularly see pedestrians walk into the road whilst looking at their mobile phone, with another 68% saying they had seen pedestrians crossing the road despite wearing headphones.

This growing phenomenon of people staring at their smartphones whilst crossing the street has led to a new word being coined – “smombies” (smartphone zombies).

Commenting on their data and the release of Pokemon GO, Managing Director of HPL Motors, Jonathan Herman, said:

“Despite the laws and the technology in cars that allows people to drive without freeing up their hands to use a mobile phone, people are still becoming distracted at the wheel, which is a big concern for both drivers and pedestrians. With a game like Pokemon GO, where users are encouraged to collect as much as possible as they move around, the temptation to play behind the wheel is going to be even greater.

“Both our data and the findings by the AA have highlighted the potential risks that technology poses to safety on our roads. The focus should always be on education to ensure people are aware of the risks that can arise from using mobile phones and music players in and around vehicles, especially as the technology becomes more accessible.”