Driving under the influence of Facebook

Don’t eat, don’t talk on the phone, don’t apply make-up… don’t do a lot of things while you’re driving. Sounds logical. Driving is not the best time to be distracted.  So why are more and more people using Facebook while driving? It’s one of the most distracting and time-consuming activities most of us engage in during our daily lives, and now it’s affecting our lives!

OK, a little dramatic there… let’s look at the stats.

An article on Gizmag makes the bold statement that “using Facebook while driving [is] more dangerous than drinking, texting, or marijuana”.

The following stats are just a few from the new research released by the Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM) in the UK in March 2012.  The study found that a driver’s reaction time is increased by the approximations below in the following scenarios:

  • Hand-held mobile phone call – 45.90%
  • Using a smartphone for social networking – 37.6%
  • Texting – 37.4%
  • Hands-free mobile phone call – 26.5%
  • Cannabis use – 21%
  • Alcohol use (above driving limit but below 100mg per 100ml of blood) – 6-15%
  • Alcohol use (at the legal limit) – 12.5%

From the above we can conclude that using mobiles for social networking while driving is substantially more dangerous than texting and being under the influence of cannabis and alcohol. An interesting food for thought- imagine the uproar that would arise if 24% of young drivers were driving around drunk. Why is it then that we carelessly tolerate this detrimental yet common-place practice which is resulting in the death of thousands. Sounds extreme? In actual fact, 1 person in the world dies every 27 seconds on a road, which is dumbfounding.

“Subjects who were using Facebook while driving were unable to maintain the car's position in the lane, resulting in a massively increased number of unintentional lane departures” and “…were unable to respond as quickly to the car in front gradually changing speed”. The question is why the continuous engagement while driving when the effects are so obvious? Is it the young culprits and their naivety of being untouchable? Is it the real-time response and action that awaits on social networking platforms? The unfortunate reality is that with more and more mobile sites and apps launching each day, these stats will only increase, especially with the increased adoption of smart phones at such younger and younger ages- making technological devices more and more the norm and integrated in every aspect of our lives.

Despite the obvious dangers, which I’m sure most of us have experienced first-hand in those near-miss moments of fright, we continue to think we are invincible and are too focused to be affected. We have to recognise that we don’t just put ourselves at risk each time we look at our phone screen, read or reply to a message, or open up Facebook, but also the lives of innocent passengers and pedestrians. So next time you’re sending that smiley J face, just remember- phones don’t kill people… people (and their choices) kill people…

Feel free to download the report summary and full report for more information on the study.