Mobile Madness; an MP Wants Motorists Who Flaunt Highway Code Advice Not to Use a Mobile Phone While Driving to Be Prosecuted

By Weaver, Alistair | The Evening Standard (London, England), November 23, 2001 | Go to article overview

Mobile Madness; an MP Wants Motorists Who Flaunt Highway Code Advice Not to Use a Mobile Phone While Driving to Be Prosecuted


Weaver, Alistair, The Evening Standard (London, England)


Byline: ALISTAIR WEAVER

THE use of mobile telephones by drivers on the move has become so widespread that transport experts believe this bad habit could be having a big impact on road accident statistics.

If Labour MP Janet Anderson has her way, however, the use of mobiles in cars may now be outlawed completely, and the alltoo-common sight of drivers juggling mobile phones while steering and changing gear may become a thing of the past.

Last week, she introduced a private members' bill calling for a new law to "make it an offence to use a handheld mobile telephone while driving a motor vehicle". Despite a likely backlash from some motorists, she has the firm backing of road safety lobby groups like RoSPA.

Britain's Highway Code already warns drivers "never to use a handheld mobile phone of microphone while driving".

Motorists can be prosecuted for not being "in full control of their vehicle", "careless" or even "'dangerous" driving. But these rules are erratically applied and Anderson believes that a specific law is needed.

Hard statistics on British road deaths are not readily available.

RoSPA says that the 17 motoring deaths on British roads where a mobile was a contributing factor to the accident could represent serious underreporting of the true figures as few drivers admit to using mobiles at the time of an accident.

However, Anderson's bill does not cover hands-free mobiles, which are becoming increasingly common. Some cars have this sort of equipment built in.

"You're as likely to have an accident with a hands-free phone as you are with a handheld one," said a RoSPA spokesman. "It's the telephone conversation itself that's the problem."

Research from the University of Utah in the United States found that the effect of using a mobile when at the wheel was equivalent to driving when drunk. American researchers found no difference in driver responses when hands-free equipment was used instead of separate handsets. …

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