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This Thursday, 11th May will be the third annual My Red Thumb Day, an initiative that aims to educate road users about the dangers associated with using a mobile phone behind the wheel.

In the UK, more than two-thirds of us now own a smartphone and, on average, we spend 2 hours each day using our phones to browse the internet, use social media, shop, and bank on the move. However, distracting driving is a serious and growing threat to road safety and mobile phone use is a key strand of this problem.

Research has shown that if you use your phone while driving, you are 4 times more likely to be involved in a crash. Looking down at your phone, for just a split second causes you to take your eyes off the road, increasing the chance of an accident. Those who use a hands-free or handheld mobile phone behind the wheel are slower to recognise and react to hazards, and even careful drivers can be distracted by a call or text.

Shockingly, a survey conducted on behalf of Jefferies Solicitors last year revealed that 85% of drivers admitted to using their mobiles at the wheel to text, surf the internet or check social media.

The My Red Thumb campaign is hoping to educate road users about the issue and is encouraging individuals to paint their thumbnail red in support. When drivers look at their red thumb, it is hoped that they will be discouraged from picking up their phone while behind the wheel and help spread the word to others.

Across the country, messages will also be communicated via vehicle information signs reminding drivers of the dangers. For those who want to spread the word at work, school, home and online, there is a range of resources available on the My Red Thumb Day website.

On social media, there will be a ‘Thunderclap’ to help propel the Red Thumb Day message to as many people as possible. At 11 am, supporters will post the message: “Save lives on the roads today by supporting National #MyRedThumb Day. Hands off your mobile phone whilst driving”.

On 1st March 2017, harsher penalties were introduced for those caught using their phone while behind the wheel. A key focus of My Red Thumb Day will be to educate people about this change in legislation. Those who use their phone while driving will receive 6 penalty points on their license along with a £200 fine. New drivers, who are only allowed to accrue 6 penalty points within their first 2 years on the road, will lose their licence.

In recent years, mobile phone use at the wheel has emerged as a significant problem and growing cause of road traffic collisions. It is hoped that campaigns like My Red Thumb Day will help educate drivers about the serious risks involved and that the tougher punishments for those caught will result in a drop in mobile phone use amongst road users.

To learn more about My Red Thumb Day and how you can get involved, visit the campaign website.

Published on 8th May 2017.