Motorists are being asked to consider what distracts them later this month as part of a joint road safety initiative that's been organised by neighbouring fire and rescue services.
Next Friday (25 August) staff from Derbyshire, Leicestershire, Northamptonshire and Nottinghamshire Fire and Rescue Services (NFRS) will be joined by officers from Highways England at a number of service stations on the M1 motorway.
The teams, who will also be joined by police officers from the East Midlands Operational Support Service (EMOpSS), will be engaging with customers at their respective service stations and will be asking one key question – what's your distraction?
"Being distracted for just a few seconds takes your eyes of the road – which can potentially cause a fatal collision," said Watch Manager Ben Clements, who works within Nottinghamshire Fire and Rescue Service's Education Team.
"This is why we're asking people what it is that distracts them when they're behind the wheel. Whether it be mobile phone use, skipping the next song or, something as innocent as eating an apple, we want people to identify it and pledge to stamp it out.
"One study actually found that texting drivers were 23 times more likely to crash than those who were paying attention. This is one of many studies and demonstrates just how big of an issue this is, so it's great that we've been able to come together with our colleagues in other areas as part of our work to tackle it.
"The M1 runs through all our counties so we're hoping that by having staff posted at various different service stations we'll be able to engage with a wide range of motorists."
During the course of the one-day event, the various agencies will be at a number of service stations – including Trowell Southbound, Tibshelf Northbound, Newport Pagnell Southbound, Watford Gap Northbound, Leicester Forest East Southbound and Castle Donington.
They will be on hand to speak to motorists, and passengers, about general road safety – with a specific focus on distraction – and people travelling down the M1 on that day are encouraged to have a chat with the teams about how they can make their driving that bit safer.
One person who, unfortunately, knows too well the devastation that driver distractions – and specifically mobile phone use – can cause is Toni Hall, the partner of Nottinghamshire Firefighter Darren Bryan who tragically died in a collision on the M1 two years ago.
Darren, who was based at Retford Fire Station, was travelling southbound on the M1 on Tuesday 30 June 2015 when a lorry crashed into the back of his van. Evidence suggesting that the driver of the lorry had been using his mobile phone, whilst driving, before the crash was later presented in court.
During the trial the prosecution brought a case against the driver for causing death by dangerous driving. He was found not guilty of this charge by a jury, but admitted the lesser charge of causing death by careless driving - which led to him being sentenced to eight months in prison and banned from driving for 28 months.
"Darren's death has been absolutely devastating, not only for us as a family, but also for his friends and colleagues," said Toni, who is currently gearing up to climb Mount Kilimanjaro, for charity, in Darren's name.
"We've had a very difficult two years trying to adjust to life without Darren and I cannot stress enough how dangerous it is to be distracted whilst driving. People think they can do it and get away with it – but they can't. It has very real consequences.
"Please think before picking up the phone when you're behind the wheel - surely no text or phone call can be so urgent that it's worth risking lives for."