Thursday, 29 September 2016

Traffic Jams are caused by texting drivers

With the proposal to expand penalties for drivers using phones, there have been lots of claims that the number of people texting has increased. That's something always worth validating with real datasets.

Back in September 2013, we observed that one driver in three on Arley Hill was texting.

Fast forward to 2016 and what do we see?

On a single pedal-up-the-contraflow, we didn't see more than 30% texting, we'd actually consider it to be less. L008HUJ/LD08HUJ (not found in DVLA DB), CN02JKO, VN11OYA (taxi?), BG62YGA, BD65WXL, CE53GMG. Six cars out of thirty one; approximately 1 in 5. Less than before.

What you can see though is that some drivers are so engrossed in their texting that gaps are building up in the queue.

That's the BMW BD65WXL and the Zafira BG62YGA

The Zafira's MOT expired on 7th Sept: that vehicle is not legal. And look at the gap the driver has let develop.

You have to be utterly oblivious to your environment to not notice that there as was a gap of 5+ vehicle lengths in front of you. Five vehicle lengths! You don't normally get that in the city, or the motorways nearby, at least not during daylight hours. Yet she's happily looking down, oblivious to the world. And she wasn't happy when this was pointed out to her. Now, it may seem irrelevant, these drivers are all in the same queue. But anyone wanting to turn up Nugent Hill (as opposed to illegally contraflow down), is having that opportunity denied to them, so creating needless congestion. Equally seriously, once the queue gets all the way to the roundabout on Cotham Brow, it has the risk of getting someone stuck in the roundabout, so blocking cross traffic. And all because they're curious what their friends are up to on Facebook.

There we have it. If people say "why has congestion got worse?", we will respond "our data implies that while the number of people texting hasn't increased, the time those drivers spend on their phone has —so making congestion worse".

Finally, at 1:11, the driver of CA09AKF is reading a kids picture book. Now, there did appear to be a child on the back, so this could be the way of keeping a bored child happy. Except: how do you read a picture book out loud? Do you turn it over going "tree!" "fish!", or what? Because the whole point of kids picture books is that you give them to the child to stare at the pictures while you do important things like check facebook for updates. If find yourself wanting to grab the picture book from the child in the back seat and read it yourself, well, life is bleak. Make sure your phone is charged up next time.

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