Call to bust phone-driv­ing myth

Gloucestershire Echo - - MOTORING NEWS - By CHRIS RUSSON

TOUGHER laws need to be in­tro­duced to bust the myth that the use of hands-free mo­bile phone sys­tems in cars is safe, a lead­ing road safety or­gan­i­sa­tion claims.

IAM Road­s­mart says the time has come to en­sure all driv­ers are fully aware of the risks of multi-task­ing at the wheel.

In re­sponse to a Government re­port which said that ‘us­ing a mo­bile phone while driv­ing is dan­ger­ous, with po­ten­tially cat­a­strophic con­se­quences,’ IAM Road­s­mart said there needs to be much stricter con­trols on the use of hands-free mo­bile phones in cars – and they re­main a ma­jor dis­trac­tion to the task of driv­ing.

How­ever, the char­ity said that it can­not see how any ban can be en­forced, with a lack of po­lice num­bers mean­ing driv­ers feel they will not get caught.

Of­fi­cial sta­tis­tics show that in 2017 there were 773 ca­su­al­ties, in­clud­ing 43 deaths and 135 se­ri­ous in­juries, in col­li­sions where a driver us­ing a mo­bile phone was a con­trib­u­tory fac­tor.

The fig­ures show that the num­ber of peo­ple killed or se­ri­ously in­jured has risen steadily since 2011, how­ever alarm­ingly the rate of en­force­ment has dropped by more than two-thirds since then.

Neil Greig, IAM Road­s­mart di­rec­tor of pol­icy and re­search, said: “IAM Road­s­mart strongly wel­comed the House of Com­mons Trans­port Com­mit­tee re­port as it fully con­firms what we have known for some time – multi task­ing is a myth and any form of smart­phone use at the wheel is dis­tract­ing.

“Clar­i­fy­ing the law so that any use of a phone that in­volves hold­ing it or plac­ing in the driver’s lap is made il­le­gal should be a top government pri­or­ity.

“It doesn’t mat­ter if it’s for mu­sic se­lec­tion or so­cial me­dia up­dates, it all in­creases risk be­hind the wheel par­tic­u­larly for new driv­ers.

“New laws and tougher penal­ties are wel­come but will only work if the fear of be­ing caught is in­creased.

This can be done through more high-pro­file polic­ing but could also given an im­me­di­ate boost by is­su­ing clear guidelines for the use of mo­bile speed cam­eras to pros­e­cute any driver they spot with a phone to their ear.

“The fi­nal piece in the jig­saw for IAM Road­s­mart would be a re­vamp­ing of the mo­bile phone aware­ness course with ev­ery first of­fender be­ing sent on one to see and feel the real im­pact of their be­hav­iour.”

Two years ago, mo­torists caught us­ing a hand-held phone would have faced a pun­ish­ment of six points on their licence and a £200 fine – a dou­bling of the pre­vi­ous penalty.

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