The Driving Change team have won an impact award!

Last time updated:

September 24, 2021

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OU academic Dr Gemma Briggs has won a prestigious research impact award for her studies advising the national campaign to warn drivers of the dangers of hands-free phone use while on the road.

Dr Gemma Briggs

Dr Briggs’ research centred on specific explanations for why phone use by drivers is dangerous.

The senior lecturer and head of Discipline in the School of the School of Psychology & Counselling has won an O²RB Excellence in Impact Award 2021.

These awards, supported by the University of Oxford’s ESRC Impact Acceleration Account (IAA), recognise and reward social scientists whose research has achieved excellent economic and social impact.

Dr Briggs’ vital research places her in a group of winners who have collaborated with policymakers, industry partners, academics and NGOs around the globe to impact a wide range of complex and urgent societal challenges; from the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on rates of parenting stress and child abuse, to European cities’ policies and practices towards irregular migrants.

Influencing national policy, campaigns and attitudes

Specifically, Dr Gemma Briggs’ collaborative applied research into the effects of distracted driving has significantly influenced national policy, police campaigns, and public attitudes towards the dangers of phone use at the wheel – a danger that contributes to an average of five deaths per day on UK roads.

In March 2020 her research contributed to a road safety campaign used by 43 police forces in the UK and partner institutions.

Her award notes she has also provided evidence to the Transport Select Committee, leading to their recommendation to change legislation, worked closely with the National Police Chief’s Council to provide evidence-based education for their national enforcement campaign and moreover, helped to shift public attitudes on the risks of distracted driving through extensive media coverage of her work.

Her findings that phone conversations draw on the same critical cognitive resources that a
driver needs for visual perception showed that phone-using drivers have severely reduced hazard detection abilities and situation awareness, significantly increasing the risk of
collisions .

Further details of this work can be found on the Driving Change project website as well as Gemma’s recent talk at the launch of the Open Psychology Research Centre.

Reacting to her award, Dr Briggs said:

“I’m delighted to have been given this award, which recognises the work that I’ve carried out alongside several colleagues and partner organisations. It’s great that our research has achieved impact in this way, and that there is an appetite in both the public and private sector to engage with this work in the hope of achieving evidence-based practice.

“It’s equally fantastic that public awareness of the dangers of handsfree phone use while driving is increasing, and the opportunity to help the police and road safety charities to share research in this area has been valuable.”

Dr Briggs’ reflections on her impact journey will be shared at the Awards ceremony, live-streamed from Oxford University’s Museum of Natural History on 19th October 2021, from 6pm. Register here:

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