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On 31st October Tomasz Kroker was sentenced to 10yrs in prison. Whilst driving along the A34 at 50mph in a truck he collided with stationary traffic. Nothing new there. Collisions happen every day right? Well this one was different in that as consequence a woman and three children tragically lost their lives. So what was the cause? How could this have happened? Kroker was scrolling through music tracks on his phone to choose his next track. With eyes off the road and mind off the road he left a trail of destruction and devastation that nobody wants to see on our roads.

On 6th September Christopher Gard was sentenced to 9yrs in prison. With 8 previous convictions for using his phone whilst driving, Gard chose to send a text message to a friend about a dog walk. Whilst doing so he lost control of his vehicle and collided with cyclist Lee Martin and killed him outright.

Just think about that for a moment. 5 lives taken over the choice of the next music track or something so important as a dog walk

Smartphones and the multitudinous apps that they can run have brought about an always on 24hr society. We can’t stand to be parted from our phones and eagerly await the next alert or notification. Somebody just replied to your Facebook post. Your tweet just got retweeted but by who.. a celebrity maybe? A new Snap from a friend, your Ebay item just got a new bid, a Whatsapp message inviting you to a party. This list goes on. Our desire to be informed, up to date and fully connected is important to us. We thrive on the pace and instancy of our online lives and take it with us wherever we go. The FOMO (fear of missing out) factor plays hard ball with us and when that notification sounds we can’t help but look. We have to know.

Whilst this is great and a product of our desire for information and connectivity this behaviour is spreading to somewhere it shouldn’t. Our cars. It’s a well established fact that driving and using a phone is illegal. In fact, in the UK it’s considered so serious the government are on the verge of increasing the penalty to £200 and 6 points yet the problem persists. If anything it may well be increasing.

People are dying on our roads every day and the involvement of a phone or mobile device is becoming more prevalent. So what can we do about it? Simple. Don’t phone and drive. Don’t text and drive. #DontStreamAndDrive. In fact, if you’re driving, don’t do anything with your phone at all. Even a hands free call is a distraction and can significantly impair your driving performance to the extent it’s equivalent to drinking and driving.

Make a promise to yourself today. Commit to never use your phone behind the wheel of a car. Keep yourself and every other road user safe from injury or death.

We live in an always on, 24hr society and we love it. Make sure you don’t love it so much it overtakes common sense and you switch from always on to permanently offline.

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PokémonGO or PokémonNO?

The new game sweeping the USA and coming here soon. PokemonGO
A rehash of the old game but now the gamer has to navigate around the game in the real world by GPS location and augmented reality. 
Gamers need to be aware of their own surroundings when out in public with a phone in their hand. It will no doubt be great fun but less so if they cross a road or injure themselves because they are not looking where they are going.
Players can lay a lure to attract Pokemon. What if the lure is laid by those intent on subjecting gamers to crime? 
Those playing the game should have fun but must be situationally aware to reduce their chances of becoming victims of crime. 
Sadly, video footage already exists of gamers hunting down Pokemon whilst driving. This is no different to the issues around the #DontStreamAndDrive campaign. Distracted driving kills. In the case of the latter it can only be #PokemonNO

Golf and #DontStreamAndDrive

When we do something that’s really important to us we focus on it completely and don’t allow ourselves to be distracted. 
I play golf. Badly mostly but I play. When I stand over the ball I zone in on trying to make it the right shot. I have a routine I go through. Stance, grip, visualise the shot, think about cadence, relax, eye on the ball, steady head… swing. Sometimes it works. Other times not.
Many times a golfer will be told or admit to themselves they lifted their head too early. They took their eyes off the ball. What’s the worst that can happen? Well you fluff the shot for starters. You could hit someone, smash a window or damage the club captains car! Extreme examples of course for in most cases you pull your trolley forward 10 paces and try again or wander off toward the rough to search for your ball.
So here’s a thing. We focus on these tasks. Those around us fall silent as we prepare. There is an accepted courtesy that you must not be distracted. Yet the consequences if we are distracted are minor.
Now transfer this to driving a car. We allow ourselves to be distracted in cars without a second thought all the time. Friends as passengers getting excited, bouncing around, singing, laughing. Having fun. You join in. Or, as is the growing trend, using mobile phones in cars. Making calls, sending texts, checking social media or the new danger on our roads… livestreaming. 
The risks of livestreaming and driving are fairly obvious. You’re driving a lethal weapon at speed. Anything can happen and often does. The risks are massively high yet drivers are consistently taking their eyes off the road. Why is it that drivers will livestream and take risks in a highly dangerous environment? Risks that could lead to death or serious injury. Yet when it comes to something as simple as a golf shot they are totally focussed on the matter in hand?

Seem a bit back to front? It does to me.

Don’t allow yourself to be distracted whilst driving. The difference between being an additional shot over par or dead are incomparable.
If something is important. Focus on it completely. If it could lead to your death if you don’t then focus on it as if your life depended upon it…. because it does!
#DontStreamAndDrive

For @newkiddswagg

Hugely disappointed that you have blocked me on Periscope because my important message has not yet reached you. 
I’m trying to think of a way I can get your attention and help you to realise how dangerous streaming and driving is. 
I’m sure you are an honest and caring man and would not want to hurt anyone. As a man of faith (as I am) I find it increasingly difficult to reconcile your driving and scoping with a man who loves his neighbour as himself.
If your child or a family member were run down and killed by a driver who was streaming, driving, reading the comments, giving a presentation, not looking at the road ahead and regularly had no hands on the wheel for considerable lengths of time you would be rightly upset. 
You may be able, in time, to forgive but that would not bring your loved one back. How would you feel if you were the driver?
I don’t intend to spam you or troll you. I hope and pray to God that you see sense and stop this dangerous behaviour. I’m sure if you look at this clinically you know it makes sense. No matter how much fun can be had with Periscope it must not be from behind the wheel of a moving car. 
Please please #DontStreamAndDrive

#DontStreamAndDrive Day

Friends. I need your help.

Driving is a complex operation. A blending of eye, hand and foot coordination that can propel a vehicle down a road at incredible speed. A process that requires skill, judgement, responsibility and places upon you, as a driver, a duty of care to yourself and every other road user.

If done correctly, driving a car fully occupies your attention. Listen to my simple commentary here as I drive down country lanes. Now consider that in a city with pedestrians, cyclists, pedestrian crossings, more traffic, buses, more road signs, junctions and hazards. If you are fully focussed on your driving you have zero time to do anything else.

The use of mobile phones by drivers has been in existence since the devices were introduced. The specific offences were introduced to UK legislation in 2003.

As phones have become an essential part of day to day life the use of them by drivers has increased. Stand at any busy junction for 5 minutes and count how many drivers you see using a phone. You will be appalled. Studies have shown that driving ability is clearly impaired by using a mobile phone and that talking on a hand-held mobile phone impairs driving more than driving above the drink drive limit. Just think about that for a moment.

The Government in the UK recognise the implications of this behaviour and have, over the years, gradually increased the penalty for this offence. There is currently a consultation on bumping them up again. However, indications are that use by drivers is not reducing.

When questioned many people will agree that drinking and driving is unacceptable but will often happily get behind the wheel after 1 or 2 drinks. When asked, some people will agree that using a phone whilst driving is dangerous but will do it themselves. Why? Because they are a safe driver? There is regularly a disconnect between what people ‘think’ about certain behaviours and what they allow themselves to do.

In 2014, using a mobile phone whilst driving was a contributory factor in 21 fatal accidents. 21 families torn apart with grief. 21 lives needlessly taken because of unnecessary mobile phone use. Have you used a phone whilst driving? Did you think about the consequences and still use the phone anyway… or is this sort of tragedy, the kind of thing that happens to others? You’re a safe driver right? Wrong… if you use a phone whilst driving…. VERY wrong. It can, does and will happen to someone just like you.

But there is more to worry about. This isn’t making phone calls. This isn’t sending texts. This is the massively increasing trend of livestreaming on the internet. Livestreaming is fun and a great way to engage with friends and others online. You can show viewers what you are doing, what you are looking at and let them see who you are, your personality and your life. This is great when in a city and showing the sights, streaming an amazing sunset on Hawaii or the view from a hot air balloon drifting over the Serengeti. It’s amazing and really opens up other peoples worlds to us. There are many platforms to do this from such as Periscope, MeVee, Blab, Meerkat, Facebook and Snapchat. It stands to reason though that live streaming is going to come into the driving arena.

That last sentence is deliberately phrased to give the impression the problem is coming. The reality though is that livestreaming and driving is already here. I’ve spent the last few weeks looking at what people are doing and have been left utterly speechless. Drivers holding phones and broadcasting whilst they drive. Drivers flipping the camera whilst holding the phone whilst they drive. Drivers reading comments that viewers have put on the screen and engaging in conversations. Drivers showing themselves driving and the scary amount of time their eyes are looking at the phone and not on the road. Drivers admitting that what they are doing is probably illegal, reckless or dangerous.. but STILL DOING IT! Drivers who are almost giving a presentation… aiming for some sort of social media celebrity status  and desperately trying to impress viewers.

Yesterday I watched a young woman in the USA, streaming, driving, reading the comments, replying to the viewers and was adjusting her hair at the same time. She had no hands at all on the steering wheel.

The consequences of this new behaviour are very frightening. It will not be long before the first person livestreams their own death or that of another whilst driving.

I have called out a few people over the last few weeks who have streamed and drived. I have tried to point out the dangers and have used some videos to try and reinforce the point.

You can find them all here.

Livestreaming and driving is increasing every day. The people I have called out are roughly split into 3 groups. Those who don’t reply to me at all, those who are in denial (“I’m a safe driver” and “I never touched the phone”) and those who realise what they have done and commit to never do it again.

I’ll finish as I started. ‘I need your help’

On Friday 8th April 2016 I plan to run a #DontStreamAndDrive day.

Over the next few weeks I will be asking you to help support the day. To get the message out to as many people as possible that livestreaming and driving can be a fatal.

I will be asking you as a livestreamer to get online and post a short broadcast with the hashtag. In the broadcast you will give your commitment to never stream and drive, encourage others not to and that you will never watch a broadcast when the host is driving. Those on Twitter who do not livestream will be encouraged to post a picture holding a card with the hashtag or written on their hand in the classic palm forward ‘stop’ style. More detailed info will follow nearer the date.

I plan to speak to as many road safety agencies as I can to gain support. I will approach all my policing colleagues in the UK, North America and beyond to get them to help and share the message both in advance and then support the event on the day.

I know that every right thinking person would want to reduce the number of deaths on our roads. Ironically every streaming driver I have seen would probably say the same…. we need to bridge the gap between the mindset and the behaviour. We need to get the message out there now, nice and early, to current and future livestreamers that streaming and driving is massively dangerous and must not be done.

Thank you for reading. Thank you to those who have supported me so far. Thank you if I’ve touched a chord and you think you will be able to help me in advance of and on the April 8th itself.

If you’re on Twitter or Facebook then please consider signing up to the #DontStreamAndDrive Thunderclap

The message is really quite simple; #DontStreamAndDrive

I am delighted that #DontStreamAndDrive day has the support of the amazing organisations and police forces;

Supporters 160407

(click image for larger version)

Police Professional Magazine ; Fixers UK ; THINK! ; TISPOL ; Road Safety GB ; Brake Charity ; Safe Drive GM ; Road Safety Wales ; Birmingham Updates ; Wasted Lives ; National Crime Agency ; Bedfordshire Police ; Leicestershire Police ; Surrey Police ; North Yorkshire Police ; North Wales Police ; College of Policing ; Cumbria Crack ; Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service ; Wiltshire Police ; Sussex Police ; Avon and Somerset Police ; Police Federation of England and Wales ; Norfolk Police ; Suffolk Police ; RoSPA ; West Yorkshire Police ; West Midlands Fire Service ; Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service ; Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service ; East Anglia Air Ambulance ; North West Motorway Patrol Group ;

*Featured image courtesy of Mike Petrucci on Flickr (satnav screen image changed and text added)