Friday 8th April is 'Don't stream and drive' day

Published Wed, 06/04/2016 - 06:38

Police officers across Europe and the world know very well the dangers of driving and using a phone. Whether the driver is hands-free or holding the phone the two operations do not go together and can have fatal consequences. We have, for many years, promoted and raised awareness of the #Fatal4

We know that the driver who uses a mobile whilst in motion is more likely to be involved in an accident. Studies indicate that talking on a hand-held phone impairs driving more than driving above the drink drive limit.* We also know that holding the phone and tapping out a text message increases those risks even further.

Much like drink drive, despite our best efforts to educate and enforce the legislation, there are still drivers who engage in this dangerous practice.

Powerful smartphones and the rise of social media and instant messaging platforms have led to a huge increase in communication between users. The culture that has developed is one of being ‘always on’. Users will engage with friends, family and the wider social media world when they wake, whilst at work, relaxing watching the TV at home and everywhere in between. Sadly, but unsurprisingly, they are also using them whilst in the driving seat of their vehicle.

Reading and replying to instant messages is very similar to that of sending/receiving an SMS message. It is fraught with danger but not unknown to us. However, there is a new menace to our roads and the implications of it could be huge.

With the advent of faster network connections there has been a surge in the number of platforms that will allow video to be streamed live from a mobile device. Livestreaming is not new but the current surge in use has led many commentators to believe that 2016 is the year of livestreaming. Users can now broadcast live video from their mobile device to the world using platforms such as Periscope, MeVee, Blab, Meerkat, Snapchat and Facebook.

Livestreaming to show your friends and family that fabulous beach sunset, your view of the Eiffel Tower at night or as you motor gracefully into the harbour at Monaco are fantastic. Streaming whilst driving however is far more sinister.

The videos are out there now of drivers who are streaming as they drive to work, drive home from work or just out with their friends. They face the camera forward and show the view of the road ahead or turn it toward themselves. In either case the screen is visible to the driver and they can see exactly what they are streaming. Adding to the complications is that many of these applications also allow viewers to send text messages to the host that appear on the screen.

By reading the screen the driver has taken their focus from the road.  They then engage in conversation with the viewers. It is particularly worrying when a driver points the camera to themselves and you, the viewer, can see how much time they spend looking at the screen and not the road. There is also, in some cases, a desire to be popular and cool on the platforms. It engenders a misplaced desire to be a social media celebrity. One who tries desperately to impress viewers to gain recognition and praise from them. In such cases the driver’s behavior becomes a ‘performance’ that will increase the risks exponentially.

Livestreaming, from my perspective, is a new menace on our roads that is going to increase dramatically. We know drivers take risks and this is a new one that many seem to be blindly oblivious to. In 2014, using a mobile phone whilst driving was a contributory factor in 21 fatal accidents in the UK. Is this likely to increase with such behavior? How long will it be for the first person to livestream their own death or that of another whilst driving?

I have started to highlight the dangers of this new behaviour over social media and have challenged drivers. I have tried to point out the dangers and have used some videos to try and reinforce the point.

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 is unacceptable.

I will be asking the livestream community to get online on the day and post a short broadcast with the hashtag in the title. In the broadcast they will pledge to never stream and drive, encourage others not to and that they 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. If not they will be invited to post a photo of their hand in a ‘stop’ signal with the hashtag written on the palm of their hand.

I am seeking as much support as I can garner from Road Safety agencies, police forces/officers and the public.

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.

If you can join me and show your support on April 8th I would be very grateful.

The message is really quite simple; #DontStreamAndDrive

* UK Govt consultation document https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/494672/hand-held-mobile-phone-driving.pd

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