Despite it being illegal, many drivers take the opportunity during their journey to quickly check appointments on their cellphone, type a message or make a phone call without using a hands-free device. People should be aware that a two-second distraction at 50 kilometers per hour means they are driving without looking at the road for 30 meters.
Distraction – primarily from cellphones – is now the number one cause of accidents in Germany. 100,000 accidents a year claim the lives of more than 500 people and injure 25,000 because they did not have their full attention on the traffic.
The road safety campaign “BE SMART! Hands on the Wheel – Eyes on the Road” highlights these dangers. The Wacker Chemie AG Safety Department at the Burghausen site has focused on this issue by holding six education days. Many employees took the opportunity to learn something new at talks and information booths. The realistic experience of the driving simulator and virtual reality glasses were particularly impressive.
How unbelievably quickly you can get into a dangerous situation if you let yourself get distracted just briefly by a phone ringing or incoming message tone! Many employees used the virtual environment to actively test the effect reaching for their smartphone could have. The results were shocking: Even a quick look at their cellphone and they had no chance to react in time to an unexpected hazard on the road. The simulator then sent them on a swerving collision course toward an accident.
Equally informative were the tours using virtual reality glasses. Whenever the test drivers became distracted by their cellphone on average they identified just 3.8 out of 5 hazardous situations. During the four-minute simulation participants spent an average of 25 seconds looking at their smartphone instead of the road. At a speed of 80 kilometers per hour just five seconds of being distracted by a cellphone results in 110 meters of driving without looking at the road. If we round that figure up to 25 seconds, drivers would travel half a kilometer with their eyes off the road – which could cause injuries and in the worst case cost them and other road users their lives.
“Sadly, the extreme danger of using a cellphone at the wheel is all too often underestimated,” warns Susanne Ackermann, head of workplace safety at WACKER’s Burghausen site. Their education days initiative has paid off, however: “Many employees were really surprised at how high a risk even minimal distractions could have. We were able to make participants aware of how much they are putting not only themselves but other road users in danger by reaching for their cellphone.”
A generational difference also became clear at the education day. Though younger participants were more adept at handling their cellphones, they used their smartphones during the simulation significantly more frequently and demonstrated greater willingness to take risks. The education day gave all participants the key takeaway: “BE SMART! Hands on the Wheel – Eyes on the Road!”
Here are a few more facts and figures to check your own behavior against. The motoring association Mobil in Deutschland e.V. targeted a total of 50,000 vehicles with their 2019 traffic census. The proportion of cellphone offenders was as follows:
- 3.8 percent used a smartphone on the freeway,
- 3.4 percent did so on country roads and highways,
- 5.1 percent in moving traffic,
- 7.7 percent in traffic jams and
- 11.5 percent at a red light.
In total, 3,161 cellphone offenders were counted. That corresponds to 6.3 percent – so in 2019, across Germany every 16th road user is driving with their cellphone in their hand (source: besmart-mobil.de ).
The traffic census was preceded by the online survey “Hand on Heart” conducted in 2016 with around 2,600 participants. In that survey, over three quarters of participants admitted using their cellphone at the wheel. A third had been in a hazardous situation as a result. Around 90 percent knew about the significant dangers of using their smartphone while driving. Even though 92 percent were aware that using a cellphone at the wheel is dangerous – that’s still eight percent too few! Hand on heart: BE SMART! Hands on the Wheel – Eyes on the Road!