Campaign urges motorists ‘don’t stream and drive’

29 March 2018

Sgt Neil Dewson-Smyth of Cheshire Police

Sgt Neil Dewson-Smyth of Cheshire Police

A campaign to deter motorists from using a mobile phone to record themselves at the wheel is being backed by the Federation.

Sergeant Neil Dewson-Smyth from Cheshire Police discovered ‘livestreaming’ – the practice of uploading a live video to social media – three years ago when Twitter launched its Periscope application. It offered the potential for the police to better engage with the public, but the officer also began to notice a worrying trend of some users livestreaming their driving.

It led him to launch the #DontStreamAndDrive campaign which kicked off with an awareness day in April 2016. It was a huge success with great support from many forces, road safety organisations and individuals all spreading the message. A further 'thunderclap' event is planned on Tuesday 3 April 2018 which hopes to match the success of last year where the campaign reached 35 million users.

Sgt Dewson-Smyth said: “The law, in allowing hands free calls, has unfortunately conditioned people to think it is okay to use a phone in the car. In fact it’s been shown that the reaction times of people distracted by a phone, is even worse than drink driving.”

He cites an example of driver on the M6 who was jailed for killing a motorway workman. The driver had sent over a dozen messages over 20 miles while driving at 80mph. In another case a Lamborghini driver broadcasted live to Periscope while at the wheel in London. Sgt Dewson-Smyth, sitting 200 miles away, was able to collect the evidence from social media and pass it to the Met Police, resulting in the man being disqualified and fined.

He added: “It’s difficult to imagine a burglar livestreaming a break-in and yet we’ve got people committing offences at the wheel and they are putting the evidence on social media. Some say to me ‘what’s wrong with streaming music?’ and my answers is nothing, as long as you are not messing around with the phone – anything which involves taking the driver’s attention is dangerous.”

Jayne Willetts, who leads on Roads Policing for PFEW, said: “This is a great campaign that has my full support. It is highlighting a genuine life and death issue, because using a phone to livestream while driving can have fatal consequences. It is not about prosecutions but getting the message out that people need to pay attention to the road because things can rapidly change.”

To support the campaign on 3 April go to the Don'tStreamAndDrive site.