UK drivers: Warning for road users over emergency alert to be sent to all phones

Phone in a car

Emergency alerts will be sent to all phones later this month

Dan Falvey

By Dan Falvey

Published: 03/04/2023

- 08:37

Updated: 03/04/2023

- 08:39

The transport sector fears the alerts risk an increase in car crashes

Fears that an emergency phone siren could cause chaos on the roads has led to urgent talks between ministers and transport sector officials.

The Government intends to test an alert on mobiles, which can be used in the event of an emergency, on Sunday, April 23.

A siren will sound an a message flash up on the phone screen, with Britons unable to unlock their phone until they acknowledge the warning.

But there are concerns within the transport sector about the impact the trial could have.

Cars queueing on the motorway

There are concerns the alerts could lead to an increase in motorway crashes


Government officials have met with the RAC over fears that the alert could lead to an increase in crashes.

Edmund King, president of the AA, warned against the test taking place on a Sunday when more inexperienced drivers tend to be on the roads.

"If they have the phone in the car and an odd sound goes off there could be some form of panic,” he said.

"Even with a hands-free system, the odd sound could mean they reach for the phone.

"So there’s no doubt there’s a threat of distraction for some drivers."

Motorway signs are planned to be used to warn drivers not to touch their phones in advance of the alert.

The alerts are being brought into place to give emergency information on events such as wildfires, flooding, or terror attacks.

Outlining the benefits of the alert system last month, Chancellor of the duchy of Lancaster, Oliver Dowden MP, said: "We are strengthening our national resilience with a new emergency alerts system, to deal with a wide range of threats – from flooding to wildfires.

Emergency alert on a phoneAn emergency message will appear on all UK mobile phones as a siren-like noise soundsTwitter/Cabinet Office

"It will revolutionise our ability to warn and inform people who are in immediate danger, and help us keep people safe.

"As we’ve seen in the US and elsewhere, the buzz of a phone can save a life."

Successful trials of the alerts have already taken place in East Suffolk and Reading.

The introduction of the emergency siren comes after similar systems were introduced in parts of Europe, the US, Canada and Japan.

You may like