February 12, 2017
Northamptonshire Police has released images of a driver caught brushing his teeth behind the wheel to highlight the dangers of distracted driving.
One of the force’s mobile enforcement vans captured the motorist using an electric toothbrush while driving along Stratford Road, Deanshanger, in late March last year. The route took him past a school, just after 4pm.
As a result, the driver opted to pay to undertake a driver improvement course, which aims to educate drivers about their behaviour and change attitudes behind the wheel.
PC David Lee, of the Safer Roads Team, said: “Distractions make it harder for drivers to spot hazards and react quickly. Most people understand that using a mobile phone or eating when you’re driving is distracting, but the range of dangerous things we see people doing behind the wheel is ridiculous.
“This incident might look funny at first, but doing anything other than concentrating on the road when you’re driving could result in a serious or even fatal collision.
“We take action against drivers like this on a daily basis to help keep everyone safer on Northamptonshire’s roads, and I’d urge everyone to think twice before trying to multi-task behind the wheel. It’s not safe, it could be illegal, and it could cost someone their life.”
Avoid driver distraction
Distractions can be visual, mental, auditory or physical, or may combine several elements – for example, using a phone when driving is a mental, physical and visual distraction. At 30mph, glancing at your phone for just two seconds means you miss up to 100ft of road.
Anyone can become distracted, including vulnerable road users like pedestrians or cyclists, making it even more important for drivers to watch out for others.
- The use of a hand-held mobile phone while driving is illegal and carries a six point penalty and a £200 fine. Drivers caught within two years of passing their test will lose their licence
- Hands free mobile phone use is legal, but is distracting and can be dangerous. Depending on the circumstances, you could be prosecuted with failing to have proper control of your vehicle
- Driver reaction times are 50 per cent slower while talking on a phone, and you’re four times more likely to crash. Other activities such as eating, drinking or smoking while driving also reduce your reaction times
- The Highway Code states you must exercise proper control of your vehicle at all times. It warns against driver distraction, including that caused by mobile phones, in-vehicle systems, loud music, map reading, starting or adjusting music or radio, arguing with passengers, eating and drinking, smoking and more
- The police can stop you if they think you’re not in control because you’re distracted and you can be prosecuted
- Fixed penalty notices can be issued for less serious traffic offences, including careless or inconsiderate driving, or driving too close to another vehicle. You can be fined up to £200 and get penalty points on your licence, risking disqualification if you build up 12 points or more within three years
- The police can also decide to issue a warning or offer driver training
During a road safety event on the Northamptonshire stretch of the M1 in August 2017, drivers cited their sat nav or other in-car technology as the biggest culprit for distracting them from the road, followed by mental distractions such as stress, emotions, tiredness, daydreaming or road rage.
Third on the list was talking to passengers, followed by looking at passengers/children in the back seat, eating, drinking, doing make-up or hair, and adjusting in-car controls. Nine people admitted to illegally using a hand-held mobile phone while driving and said it distracted them, while 26 said using their mobile legally on hands-free was a distraction.