Don’t snap a selfie behind the wheel

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According to new research, one in four young drivers admit to taking a selfie while driving.

Despite what academics and wowsers would have us believe, taking a ‘selfie’ isn’t necessarily a new thing. But, thanks to social media sites like Instagram, you can now share a photo of yourself with the world… and fair enough, too.

But what sounds particularly silly is taking a photo of yourself or, say, updating your status on Facebook while driving. And let me explain why doing that is not a sensible idea: see, at highway speeds (100km/h) looking away from the road for around 14-20 seconds to take a photo and share it with your ‘followers’ (because we’re all, ahem, brands now) could see you travel as far as five football fields.

Now, I’ll bet most of you reading this have stumbled across it on social media of some description, just hopefully not while you’re driving… and you probably think the notion of a youngster snapping a picture of themselves while behind the wheel sounds like a beat-up. Only it isn’t.

Indeed, Ford has surveyed more than 7,000 young drivers (17-24) across Europe and found that one in four of them has taken a selfie while behind the wheel of their car. Sheesh. The survey revealed that British drivers were the most likely to photograph themselves (a ‘selfie’) while on the move (33%), ahead of counterparts in Germany (28%), France (28%), Romania (27%), Italy (26%), Spain (18%), and Belgium (17%).

The survey of 7,000 smartphone users aged 18-24 from across Europe also showed one in four people had used social media sites behind the wheel; and that young male drivers were the most likely to ignore the risks.

There’s no such research in Australia, but you’d have to imagine the stats would be about the same, especially given that Australians are the most active social media users in the world (there are 13.2 million of us on Facebook alone, and 1.6 million on Instagram). And I’ll back up my sweeping talk-back-esque statement by referring to road traffic accident statistics, which say young drivers (17-25) represent one-quarter of all Australian road deaths, but they are only 10 – 15% of the licensed driver population. It gets worse; a 17-year-old driver with a P1 licence is four times more likely to be involved in a fatal crash than a driver over 26 years.

Ford’s ‘selfie’ survey is part of its Ford Driving Skills for Life initiative that launched more than 10 years ago in the US – it has since rolled out around the world and provided hands-on training for more than 100,000 young drivers.

“Taking a ‘selfie’ has for many young people quickly become an integral part of everyday life – but it’s the last thing you should be doing behind the wheel of a car,” said Jim Graham, Ford Driving Skills for Life manager.

“It is deeply worrying that so many young drivers admit to taking a photo while driving and we will be doing all we can to highlight the potential dangers through driver education.”

As a result of its survey, Ford has said it will tweak its training and attendees in the future will undertake slow speed manoeuvres while taking a ‘selfie’ on a closed facility with a professional instructor beside them at the wheel.

Sadly, Ford Australia doesn’t offer a similar driver training program but we reckon it should. Let us know what you think in the comments below. – Isaac, Practical Motoring

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