“Motorists take photos and videos at the wheel.” Did you catch this story yesterday on the BBC? I read it with interest because 1) the stats are a bit frightening when you think about the number of potentially distracted drivers on the road, and 2) the underlying motivations that it highlighted reminded me of littering behaviour.
According to a recent survey from RAC, it reports that 31% of motorists said they used a handheld phone behind the wheel compared with 8% in 2014. The reasons given for this increase in unsafe behaviour include:
- 7% of those who admitted using a mobile while driving said they did it because they knew they would get away with it.
- 23% claimed it was an emergency, 21% said they needed information for their journey and 12% said it was a habit.
These two aspects that I’ve emphasised overlap with some of my conjectures regarding litter: it has become a habit to toss packaging once done with it … and why not? What are the consequences? There is no social pressure nor do the current on-the-spot fines seem to have the necessary enforcement to make people think twice.
A caption on the article also caught my attention, claiming “There are calls to make phone usage at the wheel as socially unacceptable as drink-driving.” This is almost the exact same wording I saw over a year ago with regards to litter:
- Dropping litter should be as taboo as drink driving
Government push to clean up Britain and make dropping litter ‘as socially unacceptable as drink driving’
- Why dropping litter should be as shameful as drink driving
Whether dealing with littering or mobile phone use, the idea is sound: social attitudes can go a long way to changing ingrained cultural behaviour. But where is the action to support it? The problem of drink driving is still not completely solved, but sustained, highly visible campaigns and enforcement have been a step in the right direction. They have certainly succeeded in making the behaviour unacceptable. Let’s learn from victories like this and, rather than simply repeat the same tired phrases and look to the same unthinking motivations, do something different and act to make a change.
[If you want to help clean up litter in Chippenham, please come to the Community Clean Up on Saturday, 24 September in Monkton Park from 10:00am until noon; meet near the basketball courts.]