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OU Research Supports Police Safe Driving Campaign

Women in a car driving

Research by Senior Lecturer in Psychology Dr Gemma Briggs has helped produce a toolkit of resources for police forces to use in a campaign for safer driving. The social media toolkit is to educate and enforce the law against mobile phone use by drivers.

Dr Briggs provided evidence based on her research on the causes of distracted driving and the effects it has on drivers. She worked with lead researcher Dr Helen Wells, senior lecturer in criminology, from Keele University’s School of Social, Political and Global Studies, on a toolkit, funded by the Road Safety Trust, which has been provided to all 43 UK police forces and partner organisations as part of the National Police Chief’s Council’s (NPCC) “Fatal 4” campaign. Dr Briggs’ research also informed the FAQs document – again focusing on providing evidence-based responses to commonly asked questions (e.g. How is phone use different from speaking with a passenger?).

Dr Briggs said: “The work we have done to support the NPCC mobile phone enforcement campaign is centred on specific explanations for why phone use by drivers is dangerous, rather than simply telling drivers that they should not be doing it. We have taken an evidence-based approach to answering commonly asked questions about phone use by drivers, along with the objections that some people have, to show that hands-free phone use offers no safety benefit over handheld use. The hope is that by sharing clear evidence for the dangers of distracted driving we can encourage behaviour change, leading to fewer drivers using their phones behind the wheel.”

The campaign focuses on the four main causes of road crashes – speeding, mobile phone use, drugs and alcohol, and failure to wear a seatbelt. The mobile phone focus of the campaign will run from 9-29 March 2020.  According to Think!, the government’s road safety education campaign, research has found drivers using a handsfree or handheld mobile phone are four times more likely to be in a crash, and a driver’s reaction time is three times slower if texting compared to a drink driver.

The toolkit put together by Dr Briggs and Dr Wells includes 60 “drag and drop” tweets with the campaign hashtag #StandingUpForHangingUp, a set of Frequently Asked Questions for police officers, an interactive Powerpoint flowchart to help inform charging decisions, and an updated version of Dr Wells’ compendium which was produced as part of her Mobile:Engaged project.

The resources are designed to help police with enforcement, making confident charging decisions, and to provide guidance around communications work. The materials have been informed by Dr Wells’ research on road policing , which has included work with Highways England, Police and Crime Commissioners and various police forces.

Try the OU’s Open Learn interactive to test how alert you are behind the wheel.

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