Finnish drivers have been found to use WhatsApp, PokémonGo and even Tinder while behind the wheel, and 'heavy' smartphone users will often turn to messaging services like WhatsApp when in a traffic jam.
A study by the University of Jyväskylä in Finland is thought to be the first to track how and why drivers use their smartphones while on the move, revealing not only extensive use but also greater use in dense traffic on urban roads.
It is illegal in the UK to hold a phone or sat nav while driving or riding a motorcycle and is punishable by six penalty points and a £200 fine. You’ll also lose your licence if you passed your driving test in the last two years. The law still applies if you’re stopped at traffic lights or queuing in traffic.
The 'naturalistic' study monitored drivers in their natural settings while interfering as little as possible.
The median number of touches on the smartphone while on the move was 41 per hour, covering a range of 8 to 481, with two drivers averaging more than 400 touches per hour.
'It seems that some of the heavy users accept the risks resulting from the high levels of visual-manual distraction. The greatest smartphone-based risks in traffic seem to be caused by messaging applications,' the study found.
'By far the highest overall rankings in the number of drivers using phones, the number of uses, and the duration of use were associated with the WhatsApp messaging service. One instance of WhatsApp use had a median of eight touches and a median duration of 35seconds. In contrast, an instance of navigation application use included a median of three touches and lasted for 11 seconds.'
The road type had an effect on phone use, the study found, revealing that drivers 'produced more touches per hour on urban roads, even if the phone use instances tended to be shorter in cities than on the highway or main roads'. Researchers also stated that 'heavy smartphone users even increased their phone use in dense traffic'.
The study also found that four drivers 'used PokémonGo so heavily that the application rose to sixth on the list of the most frequently used applications by the total number of touches'.
Could this mean these drivers were actually using their car to hunt the fantastic beasts and in doing so taking this dangerous habit to a whole new level of stupidity? The researchers didn't say.