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Mobile devices, social media and sat-navs are driving young motorists to distraction

09 September 2015
  • Speeding tops the list of the Nation’s bad driving habits
  • 18 to 24 year old drivers are significantly more likely than other motorists to text from behind the wheel, check or update their social media,  tinker with their sat-nav’s settings and use their mobile or MP3 player to change music;
  • Male drivers admit to more anti-social driving habits than women drivers.

According to new research from Gocompare.com, exceeding the speed limit on public roads heads the list of anti-social driving behaviour in the UK with 43% of motorists confessing to breaking speed limits on public roads and 41% on motorways.  While drivers aged 18 to 24 were the least likely to commit a speeding offence (35%), motorists in this age group are the most likely to suffer potentially deadly distractions from mobile phones and social media.      

The survey revealed that 18 to 24 year old drivers are:

  • Nearly twice as likely as other motorists to text from behind the wheel (17% compared with an average of 9% for all drivers);
  • More than three times as likely to use their mobile or MP3 player to change music while driving (28% compared with 9%);
  • More likely than other drivers to change their sat-nav’s settings or destination (26% compared with an average 15% for all drivers);
  • Three times more likely to check or update social media while driving (9% compared with an average 3%).

Bad driving behaviour

All drivers %

Young drivers (18 – 24) %

Male drivers %

Female drivers %

Exceeding the speed limit on a public road

43

35

47

39

Exceeding the speed limit on a motorway

41

31

49

34

Eating while driving

40

29

40

40

Driving while tired

36

33

40

33

Switching lanes or turning off a road without indicating

20

20

22

18

Changing sat-nav settings or destination while driving

14

26

17

10

Driving after consuming one of more alcoholic drink

11

10

15

8

Middle lane hogging

11

11

13

9

Driving through a red light as it was changing

9

11

10

9

Texting while driving

9

17

9

9

Using a mobile phone/MP3 player to change music while driving

9

28

11

8

Making a phone call without using a dedicated hands-free kit

9

12

9

9

Checking on or updating social media while driving

3

9

4

3

Sending an email while driving

3

7

4

2

The survey of over 1,570 drivers also revealed that more men than women are guilty of anti-social behaviour behind the wheel - in particular, when it comes to breaking the speed limit, 15% more men (49%) admitted to speeding on the motorway than women (34%).

The bad driving habits covered in the survey are potentially dangerous and most are illegal: 

Speeding:  Speeding is a major factor in accidents and in deaths on the road.  The speed limit shown for a particular road is the maximum speed you should drive, you should alter your speed depending on the weather and road conditions at the time of your journey.  Speeding offences carry a fine of up to £1,000 (up to £2,500 for motorway offences), discretionary disqualification and three to six penalty points.  

Driver Distractions – including using mobile phones and other devices: Distracted driving has become the modern-day equivalent of drunk-driving and is a major contributor to road-traffic accidents.  In particular, using a hand-held phone to call or text while driving is one of the most dangerous activities a driver can engage in.  It removes their attention from the road ahead, slows down reaction times and driving with one hand can result in the driver not being fully in control of their vehicle.  Therefore, it is illegal to use a hand-held phone while driving, even if you are using it to follow a map.  This also applies if your vehicle is stationary – for example if you are in a traffic queue or waiting at traffic lights.  The penalty for being caught using a phone is three points on your licence and a maximum £1,000 fine (£2,500 for drivers of PCV or goods vehicle) and discretionary disqualification.

Drivers can use a hands-free phone while driving, but can still be prosecuted if they are found not to be in proper control of their vehicle (the same penalties apply as if you were using a hand-held phone).

While there is no specific motoring offence for some of the other distractions, such as eating while driving, you could be charged with careless or inconsiderate driving.  This is defined as using a vehicle 'on a road or other public place without due care and attention, or without reasonable consideration for other persons using the road or place' and carries a penalty of between three and nine points on your licence, unlimited fine and discretionary disqualification.  

Drink-driving: The UK has strict drink/driving limits, but it is recommend that drivers don’t consume any alcohol before getting behind the wheel because it’s not possible to categorically say how much someone can drink and stay below the limit.  This will depend upon a number of variants including height, weight, age, gender, metabolism and the type of amount of alcohol consumed.  Alcohol takes time to clear your system so you can be over the limit many hours after your last drink.  Therefore, drivers could still be over the legal limit the morning after a heavy drinking session. The penalty for being caught driving while over the limit is six months’ imprisonment, an unlimited fine and obligatory disqualification (or three to 11 penalty points if exceptionally not disqualified).

Traffic light offences: Traffic light offences carry a £1,000 fine, discretionary disqualification and three penalty points.

Middle lane hogging:  Since 2013 the police have had the power to issue on the spot fines (£100) to drivers who persistently refuse to move out of the middle lane of a motorway despite having the opportunity to pull into the left-had carriageway.  Middle lane hogging is dangerous because it causes congestion and leads to other drivers ‘tailgating’ in an attempt to get the vehicle to move over.

Commenting on the research findings, Matt Oliver, Gocompare.com’s car insurance spokesperson said, “The bad driving habits covered in our survey will be familiar to many of us.  But, while most people will recognise drink-driving, speeding and jumping red traffic lights as illegal and dangerous driving behaviours, other driving habits such as eating and drinking behind the wheel might seem tame.   However, consuming a drink or eating a sandwich while driving can be a deadly distraction – if, for instance you spill a scalding hot coffee in your lap or, are unable to complete a manoeuvre because you are driving one-handed.  The penalties for careless driving reflect the seriousness of the potential distraction.”

Matt Oliver continued, “It’s also concerning to see the numbers of young drivers who are using mobile technology while driving.  Texting, changing music or altering your sat-nav’s settings can all be dangerous distractions which can have an adverse impact on your driving.  While you’re looking at these devices – even for a few seconds - you’re taking your eyes off the road, with potentially fatal consequences for you, your passengers and other road users.

“Young drivers should also note that special rules apply to newly qualified drivers who commit motoring offences for a period of two years from the date of passing their first driving test.  If they accumulate six or more penalty points before the end of the two-years (including any points acquired before passing the test) their licence will be revoked automatically. To regain the licence they must reapply for a provisional licence and may drive only as a learner until they pass a further driving test.

“In addition to the legal penalties, drivers convicted of a motoring offence will find that their car insurance premiums will increase. They may also find it harder, especially if they have been convicted of drink-driving, to obtain insurance.” 

For more information on how driving convictions can impact car insurance premiums; visit Gocompare.com's driving convictions guide.

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Notes to editors:

*On 15-16 June 2015, Bilendi conducted an online survey among 1,574 randomly selected British adults who are Maximiles UK panelists and are motorists.  The margin of error-which measures sampling variability-is +/- 2.2%. The results have been statistically weighted according to the most current education, age, gender and regional data to ensure samples representative of the entire adult population of United Kingdom. Discrepancies in or between totals are due to rounding.