Young drivers visiting the Whitstable Sunday Funday at the weekend (Sunday 14 June 2015) were given advice about the dangers of using a mobile phone at the wheel, as Kent Fire and Rescue Service (KFRS) firefighters ask young people across the county ‘Are you phone safe when you drive?’
Firefighters carried out two car cutting displays and talked to around 600 people about what they have to do at the scene of a car crash and the impact that crash can have on so many people, including friends, family and the firefighters themselves.
Visitors were given tours of the fire engine and shown the hydraulic rescue equipment that enables firefighters to free trapped drivers following many crashes. Young drivers also got to sit in the KFRS road safety car, a modified Vauxhall Astra, which is used to highlight the dangers of the driving on the road. There was also the chance to have a selfie photo taken with the campaign mascot; a large smart phone called ‘Selfie’.
Over the last three years, there were 143 crashes involving drivers aged 17-24 years where a cause of the incident was recorded as a driver being distracted by something inside a vehicle[i], 22 of those resulted in someone being killed or seriously injured (KSI). Of these 22 crashes there were 43 casualties resulting in:
4 people dying
25 people suffering serious injuries
14 people sustaining slight injuries.
Over the same period, mobile phone use in a car was a cause of three serious crashes involving a driver aged 17-24 which resulted in six casualties - four who were seriously injured and two drivers suffered slight injuries
In a survey conducted by KFRS in November last year, 57%[ii] of those who responded said they had been distracted by a call, text or social media notification whilst driving.
The aim of the ‘Phone Safe’ campaign is to challenge young drivers to ask themselves - ‘Are you phone safe when you drive?’ and to encourage a change in attitudes to the risks associated with using a mobile at the wheel. It is hoped it will encourage them to develop a better understanding of the potential consequences of taking risks behind the wheel.
Road Safety and Safeguarding Manager at Kent Fire and Rescue, Alexa Kersting-Woods said: “Many people are aware that using your phone at the wheel is socially unacceptable and dangerous, but are so easily distracted when a call comes in or they get a social media message.
“Our statistics speak loud and clear – mobile phone distraction can cause serious and sometimes fatal crashes on Kent’s roads. The impact a crash has is wide reaching devastation - it’s heart breaking. Our crews are often the first on the scene of a crash and are faced with such harrowing scenes, which can stay with them for life.”
Alexa added: “Our message is clear, next time you are behind the wheel ask yourself if you are phone safe for the journey? Will that call or message that comes through not wait until it is safe to answer? It could mean the difference of life and death. Resist the distraction; it’s not just your life.”
KFRS’ campaign is also running alongside the Chief Fire Officer’s Association (CFOA), which is also focusing on young drivers and passengers being distracted. Young people are still disproportionately at risk on the roads and are most at risk after passing their driving test.
Throughout June, KFRS is encouraging young people to enter an online competition to win an iPad mini and a VIP tour for up to 11 people of the brand new KFRS Road Safety Experience which opens to the public in April 2016. All they have to do to win is to come up with a name for the road safety car.
[i] From stats 19 data: 1 January 2011 - 31 December 2013
[ii] KFRS Road Safety Survey conducted through promotional posts on Facebook, using Survey Monkey. 268 people responded. November 2014.