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At last - mobile phones banned whilst driving

25/6

 

At last the Government have made using a handheld mobile phone whilst driving illegal. This new offence will take effect from 1st December this year with offenders fined £30 initially but this could rise to a maximum of £1000 if the case is more serious and goes to court. Drivers caught breaking the new law would also receive three penalty points on their driving licence.

Under current laws there is no actual law specifically prohibiting the use of mobiles while driving and as every biker has witnessed many drivers are downright dangerous when chatting or texting on their mobiles with only one hand on the wheel and their concentration elsewhere! Just now drivers can only be prosecuted for using mobiles if they fail to keep proper control of their vehicle and although police can stop motorists and ask them to not to use a mobile this is just not happening.

The government had announced last August that it was considering the law change. Since then it has consulted the public and experts on the proposal - with nearly 90% of responses in favour of a ban including MAG and the BMF. Firstly the planned new law will have to be approved by Parliament and then added to the Road Vehicles (Construction and Use) Regulations.

Roads Safety Minister David Jamieson said yesterday: "Driving whilst using a mobile phone is dangerous. We are all too familiar with the sight of people driving along while holding and talking on their mobile phones. Any driver will be distracted by a phone call or text message.

"It affects the ability to concentrate and anticipate the road ahead, putting the driver and other road users at risk. Our decision to introduce this new offence will make the roads safer for us all. Missing a call won't kill you - an accident quite possibly could."

Mr Jamieson said that other types of behaviour, such as eating and drinking while driving, could be dangerous and were covered by general careless driving laws. But mobile phone calls posed particular risks as they could often continue for 10 to 15 minutes, he argued.

The government says that research shows that people using a phone while driving are four times more likely to have an accident and warns users of hands-free phones that they still risk prosecution for failing to have proper control of their vehicle or for careless or reckless driving.

A survey by the RAC motoring organisation last year suggested most drivers backed a handheld phone driving ban and head of road safety for the AA motoring trust, Andrew Howard predicts the law change would see phone driving 'plunge drastically'.

Conservative Shadow Transport Secretary Tim Collins has welcomed any measures which will genuinely improve road safety but says "There are a number of anomalies and gaps in this new policy. Why should mobile phone be banned specifically when eating a sandwich or reading a newspaper are not?"

Transport Research Laboratory studies have suggested using a hand-held mobile is more dangerous than drink driving and the practice is illegal in more than 30 countries.

The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (Rospa) have welcomed the announcement and warned that thousands of accidents have already been caused by people talking on the phone including 20 deaths where hands-free phones were being used in at least two of those tragedies. Rospa have warned motorists not to swap to hands-free sets and have called for these to be banned as well.

Rospa's head of road safety Kevin Clinton warns "We are delighted to see a new law, but it will not have the impact we have been hoping for if people switch to hands-free devices instead. It is the telephone conversation that is the main problem. People are drawn into the conversation and ignore what is happening on the road around them."

Mr Clinton is worried that phone companies will use the handheld phone ban for a market blitz on hands-free products.

However Sumit Biswas of mobile operator Vodafone UK replied "Drivers should be aware that, just because it is legal to use a fixed, hands-free mobile phone in a car, it does not necessarily mean it is safe to do so."

Motorcyclists all over the country will be heaving a big sigh of relief that hopefully thousands of accidents will now be avoided and we can only hope that all these erratic, wayward cardrivers weaving all over our roads will not revert to hands free kits and continue to cause hassle!

 

 


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