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Friday, 25 January, 2002, 10:51 GMT
Should mobile phones be banned in cars?
Motorists want to see an official ban on the use of mobile phones at the wheel to reduce accidents, according to a new survey.

The RAC survey reveals that nearly 50% of drivers have used their mobiles in their cars, usually with a hands-free kit.

But 42% of motorists support government action to rule out their use while driving.

There is no specific ban on using mobiles. Existing laws on careless or dangerous driving can be used to prosecute drivers.

Should the use of mobile phones be banned in cars? Are they a driving hazard? Do you use your mobile at the wheel?

This debate is now closed. A selection of your comments appear below.

Your comments:

Employers will need to accept that their employees cannot do their office work from behind the wheel

Erik Kowal, UK/USA
It's clear that there is a real problem with drivers causing accidents while using their mobiles. It is also clear that many are unwilling to recognise it, and therefore that the hazard will grow as mobile use keeps increasing. If we really want to force drivers to pay attention while driving, there is no alternative to banning them from all use of mobile phones, at least in moving traffic.
Employers will need to accept that their employees cannot do their office work from behind the wheel. Truck fleet managers like Alex Banks will have to invest in tracking devices if they want to know how close their vehicles are to their destinations, or else page their drivers to get them to pull off the road and converse where it's safe.
Erik Kowal, UK/USA

I use a mobile in the car, and I use voice control with a hands free headset. Anyone who suggests that 'speaking on the phone' affects ones driving either doesn't drive or is an incompetent driver. If anything should be banned it is smoking at the wheel - at least you can't set fire to yourself while making a phone call.
Tim, UK

In India and Rwanda, I have witnessed many road accidents caused by those who used mobile phones while driving. If drivers use hands-free mobiles, such accidents can be avoided.
If there is a ban on the use of mobile phones while driving, then the word 'mobile' loses its significance and meaning. Anyhow, my mobile is very useful to me and it is really mobile.
Albert P'Rayan, India/Rwanda

Taking away mobile phones from cars is impracticable, not enforceable and simply silly. What about smokers who drive too? Are they going to ban them - I am sure more of them will die from lung cancer! It will simply damage the economy if people cannot use car phones. Car phones should be fitted in car kits for handsfree speech.
Paul Harris, UK

I haven't used a mobile while driving ever since I almost drove off the road

Peter, Finland
I haven't used a mobile while driving ever since I almost drove off the road. As someone who nearly had an accident because of it I can say that everyone should realise the dangers. I highly support any legislation banning the use.
Peter, Finland

They should not be banned. But at the same time the drivers should use their own best judgement for using the cell phones. I saw my friend jumping a red light because she was busy talking on the phone. She was using both hands at the wheel. Many people use only one hand no matter if they are on the phone or not. I think it has more to do with the visual concentration which is impaired while talking on the phone and one can easily make mistakes on the traffic lights or while changing lanes. On the positive side when I am on a long drive the phone keeps me awake while the radio really makes me feel sleepy.
Prashant Mishra, USA

Yes they should be banned from use in cars. Anyone stopped for using them whilst driving should get a six-point penalty.
Nigel Greensitt, Manchester, UK

Accident prevention must be the objective of deterring use of either mobile phones or cameras to check speeding. There is no meaning in spending millions on cameras on the road and staying relaxed about the use of mobile phones while driving.
Vijay K Vijayaratnam, UK

Using a hands-free kit is virtually the same as talking to a person sitting next to you or behind you or listening to the radio. Granted, the person on the other end of the phone cannot see what problems you are having with the traffic, but how often does the other person in the car ignore those problems as well? To stop the use of mobile phones with a hands-free kit is, in essence, the same as stopping people talking to each other in cars or from listening to music or the radio.
Angela Quartermaine, England

I use the phone while driving under certain circumstances, but my attention is always predominantly on the driving function and my eyes on the road. I have been in a car with some people who cannot speak with anyone in the vehicle without looking at them. I wonder if talking is the next "evil" to be banned. Drivers should be held responsible for the safety of the vehicle and punished when they are responsible for causing an accident.
George Milton, USA/Italy

As an ex-smoker, trying to make sure the in-car lighter gets anywhere near the end of your fag without taking your eyes of the road even for a split second is hard enough. So I don't know how these people write and send text messages or dial numbers safely. I assume the answer is - they can't.
Neil, UK

Of course the use of mobile phones by drivers should be banned. Have you ever noticed someone receiving a call on their mobile in a pub? They get up and wander about, seemingly oblivious of all around them. So how much more lethal can it be when driving a motor vehicle?
Shena Mitchell, England

What do you need to use the computer? Both hands! So use both hands on the wheel instead of phaffing on about your love life on the mobile! Mobile phones with or without hands free kits in a car should be banned. They cause so many accidents and it's totally unacceptable.

I've witnessed police officers using their radios while driving

Mike Parker, England
I've witnessed police officers using their radios while driving despite there being a colleague in the passenger seat. So who is going to enforce any new legislation? To those who use mobiles while driving I have just one question - is that phone call worth your licence, your life or somebody else's?
Mike Parker, England

There is no need to ban the use of mobiles whilst driving. Current legislation more than covers any eventuality as it stands. If people do not feel comfortable concentrating on more than one thing simultaneously then they should not be driving on today's busy roads; let them use our wonderful public transport systems instead.
Shaun, Teignmouth UK

Ban the use of mobiles when in charge of any moving vehicle. A few weeks ago a cyclist ran into the back of me, and yes, she was using a mobile phone. It is not only car and lorry drivers who need their dangerous actions curbed.
John Atkins, England

Radio stations encourage the use of mobile phones in cars by asking listeners to phone in

Kevin, UK
Local radio stations (including the BBC's) positively encourage the use of mobile phones in cars during peak times by asking listeners to phone in with the latest traffic hold ups. I look to the BBC to lead the way in reducing possible fatalities by asking people not to phone in with traffic information from a moving vehicle at the busiest times of day.
Kevin, UK

Banning them won't make any difference unless there is enforcement. If the laws governing driving with due care and attention were properly enforced then people driving dangerously while talking on the phone would be stopped anyway.
Kirsty, UK

The majority of guilty daytime users are using their phones for work

Kathy, UK
My occupation requires me to carry a phone at all times, including when driving and I am sure the majority of guilty daytime users are using their phones for work. Which would you choose: risk losing your job because you don't answer the phone on the motorway or risk being stopped by the police for driving without due care and attention? All employers should supply and fit hands-free kits if they provide employees with mobile phones and it is far better to leave the legislation as "without due care and attention". Being realistic is the best way to deal with a very real problem.
Kathy, UK

I can't drive myself because I was run down by a drunk driver but my wife's mobile phone takes messages which she can answer when she has completed her journey - a sensible idea.
Philip, UK

Some think they can cope with mobile phones - some think they can drive safely with alcohol in their blood

Ed Vista, UK
Listening to someone on the phone uses a lot more brainpower than making simple decisions. Listening to the radio is a different ball game, as you don't have to respond to it. But the brain uses the same areas to cope with sensory input and thus talking on the phone could result in a lapse of visual concentration. Some people might think that they can cope with mobile phones admirably - some people think they can drive safely with alcohol in their blood. The bottom line is; if it results in injury or loss of life, you shouldn't risk it.
Ed Vista, UK

When was the last time you saw a public information advert about anything other than speeding?

Sam, UK
Education is the key. When was the last time you saw a public information advert about anything other than speeding on the TV? If people were aware of the dangers of poor driving discipline, maybe they would see how dangerous it is to use a mobile, smoke or drink when driving.
Sam, UK

Using mobiles whilst driving should be illegal, whether hands-free or not. I think there are enough distractions on the roads today, especially as they are busier than ever, and being on the phone just adds to the possibility of more unfortunate and unnecessary accidents. Imagine: driving along a busy road when the phone rings but is not to hand. One hand on the wheel, one hand fumbling around for the ringing phone in a bag or jacket pocket so you can answer it before it stops ringing.
M, Scotland

Whenever I change gear, I only have one hand on the wheel

Nicola Crossley, UK
If people are so worried about mobile phone users only having one hand on the wheel, surely we should ban all manual cars as well? Whenever I change gear, I only have one hand on the wheel.
Nicola Crossley, UK

It's illegal not to use a seat belt, when only your own life is at risk. So it must be doubly important to ban the use of mobiles when you are putting others at risk.
John, UK

Those who like to spend all their time with an ear glued to one of these wretched contraptions must be a tad on the simple side. They should certainly not be allowed to operate heavy machinery, for that is exactly what motoring is. Since we are stuck with the irritation of mobile phones, a better idea would be to scrap the right of any idiot with a license to own and operate a car. I have a shotgun license, but I am (rightly) not permitted to keep a shotgun at home.
Stephen Maidment, UK

It's not the phone that kills, it's the car.
Ed Winskill, England

Use in vehicles should be banned. I am fed up of driving behind someone whose lane discipline and driving standard is low because they are engaged in a phone call - sometimes even with a young child in the front seat alongside them!
Bob Squires, UK

Why don't we go the whole way and ban car stereos (no more loss of concentration due to changing a tape or singing along), ban ventilation (no more fumbling around trying to turn the heat up), and of course windows which take effort to wind. Any passengers carried must remain silent at all times and children must be banned absolutely from cars in case they start to cry about something and distract the driver. It should also be an offence to attempt to drive while needing to use the lavatory as this also impairs concentration. Seriously, I would rather see someone talking on a phone but watching the road than talking to their passengers and looking at the back seat to check on their kids.
John B, UK

Can we also ban them from being used in supermarkets, shopping centres and any other general pedestrian areas? The number of times I've had my foot run over by a telephone-wielding trolley maniac...
Dominic Hill, UK

It's not the use of the equipment which causes the problem, it's people who can't walk and chew gum at the same time

Chris B, England
Mobile phone usage in a moving vehicle whilst using a hands free kit is no more distracting than having a conversation with your passengers. In fact, it is probably less so, as one doesn't feel the urge to look at the person with whom one is conversing whilst using the phone, ergo ones eyes are still on the road ahead.

As an instrument rated pilot, I can fly an aeroplane, which has six degrees of freedom (pitch, roll, yaw, up and down, side to side and forwards and backwards) at night, in cloud, by sole reference to instruments, navigating by instruments whilst simultaneously working out, in my head, the correct instrument approach to the airfield from the published plates as well as talking to air traffic on the radio at the same time. Are you trying to tell me that I lack the spare brain capacity to control a car (which can only go fore and aft or left and right), in daylight, on a motorway when all of the traffic is going in the same direction and at more or less the same speed to be able to have a telephone conversation at the same time?

The use of a phone whilst driving is perfectly safe, provided that the equipment supports hands free operation (including voice dialling). Address the real issue - it's not the use of the equipment which causes the problem, it's people who can't walk and chew gum at the same time.
Chris B, England

Chris B: I too fly aircraft, but there is a difference between flying and driving, you don't have another aircraft flying thirty foot behind you and the aircraft in front of you is not going to stop to turn right.
Martin, UK

I agree mobile phones should be banned unless a hands free kit is used, but I also think smoking in cars should also be banned as you need to use one had to hold the cigarette.
Mike McCabe, England

Yes, mobiles should be banned in cars. The number of times I've seen people holding a mobile in one hand and the steering wheel in another whilst turning a corner onto a busy main road beggars belief. If a driver was holding a mobile and suddenly had to do an emergency stop, he would need both hands on the wheel, and vital seconds would be lost if he first had to drop the mobile then put both hands on the wheel and stop his car.
Cathy Harrison, England

Would you pass your driving test whilst using a mobile phone?
Dave Braithwaite, England

Surely a phone call can wait - a person's life could depend on it

Richard Medlycott, Reading,UK
As someone who has nearly come to grief twice with people who were not looking where they going because they were talking into their mobiles; stepping off the kerb, or pulling out without looking, legislation can't come quick enough. Life is stressful enough without having to make sure you're not going to be involved in a potentially serious accident. Surely a phone call can wait - a person's life could depend on it.
Richard Medlycott, Reading, UK

Last week I was nearly killed by a woman on a mobile phone who was rather more interested in her social life on the phone than seeing me on the zebra crossing. The next day I followed someone I assumed was drunk for five miles. You guessed it - on the phone! I've got one myself but always stop the car to speak on it, or even better wait until the journey is over and call the person back. Why others can't do the same is a mystery to me. Making it illegal, and more importantly, ENFORCING it, is the only way forward.
George, England

Definitely. It should be banned along with smoking. How can you concentrate on the road if fumbling with a phone or lighting a cigarette? How many people have been cut up by someone oblivious to his or her actions while talking on a mobile?
Dave, Wales

A properly installed hands-free kit makes talking on a mobile no different to talking to a passenger. Currently the law allows drivers to be prosecuted if they are driving dangerously, for any reason including mobile phone use. This is perfectly reasonable, why does there need to be any more legislation?
Will Rossetti, UK

I'm particularly appalled by coach, taxi and lorry drivers who do this

Andy Brown, UK
I find it amazing that the authorities have been so tolerant. How can you possibly control a car IN ALL CIRCUMSTANCES when holding a mobile phone? It's the unexpected event that causes accidents and a mobile phone must make it much harder to react. I'm particularly appalled by coach, taxi and lorry drivers who do this.
Andy Brown, UK

Please could someone explain how else we are meant to keep in contact with our lorry drivers then? How do we know to contact the customer to tell them he'll be late otherwise?
Alex Banks, Transport Manager, UK

Banning drivers from using mobile phones (properly) in the car is the same as banning talking to passengers, looking at the radio, scenery, other cars, car crashes etc. Clearly ANY activity that does not involve concentrating on driving increases the risk of an accident but if you might as well just ban driving. Using a mobile phone without hands-free is a different kettle of fish. This should be made as socially unacceptable as drunk driving - as should all other activities that take one or more hands from the wheel for significant periods of time.
Mark, UK

I always thought it was against the law to use a mobile phone while driving.
Ed, UK

Absolutely, driving whilst using a phone is downright dangerous, hands free kit or not. My sister was recently seriously injured in an accident that was caused by another driver who was using a mobile phone at the time. These selfish and ignorant people should be subject to the same penalties as drunk drivers.
David, Scotland

There is a big difference between driving on an empty motorway and in a busy town, between talking with a hands-free and writing a text message - will a law draw the line between being stationary (in traffic) or negotiating a roundabout - I think that the only way to be cut and dry about this, is to make it an offence to have a mobile phone on in a car whilst driving to prevent it ringing at all- but is this going to be enforceable?
Chris, UK

If you can be prosecuted for drinking from a bottle of water whilst driving, then surely holding a mobile in one hand is just as dangerous. They should be banned, except with hands-free kits.
Steven Hodgson, UK

Holding a mobile phone whilst driving should be banned, with hefty fine and points. A ban on using hands-free kits would just be unworkable.
Martin, England

If we're going to talk about driving one handed, what about smoking while driving?

Nigel, Falmouth, Cornwall, UK
Here we go again, the ban everything fraternity are on the march. Why can't people be sensible, if you can stop to make or receive a call, do so. If you can't, then use a hands-free kit. If we're going to talk about driving one handed, what about smoking while driving? That must put lives at risk in more ways than one!
Nigel, Falmouth, Cornwall, UK

As with drink driving this call will have many drivers up in arms about the nanny state, protesting that they can manage their own risk thank you very much. Again the solution is clear- let drivers do whatever they want but if they cause an accident either through drink, mobiles or anything else they should have "managed" then they should be banned for life. If anyone dies as a result, call it murder and send them to prison for life. Of course since all these drivers claim to be good drivers who can deal with these distractions they shouldn't be too worried about such a measure.
Richard Chubb, UK

I have just seen a young lady driver negotiating at some speed a corner at the bottom of a steep hill using one finger on the steering wheel whilst her head is leaning on a mobile phone on her shoulder. She only just missed the kerb on the opposite side of the road. And is it any wonder that over 330,000 people in the UK had to go to hospital after road accidents last year?
Anthony, England

Research has already shown the hands-free phones are as distracting as conventional mobile phones.
David Gee, UK

It is an established statistic that mobile phones are a factor in many accidents

David Hazel, UK
I would support the banning of mobile phones by drivers whilst their vehicles are in motion. It is often claimed that a phone is no more distracting than holding a conversation with someone in the car or listening to the radio. This is wrong, of course, since phones are inherently more invasive than either of these activities. The person at the other end of the line cannot see the degree of concentration, which is being required from the driver, and cannot therefore moderate their conversation to take this into account (unlike someone else in the vehicle).

In addition to this, talking requires more thought than listening to the radio, and therefore affects the ability to do other complex tasks like driving at the same time. I believe it is an established statistic that mobile phones are a factor in many accidents, yet unlike drink driving, they don't seem to have received a corresponding degree of interest from the authorities. If people want to use the phone while they are in the car, they can do the rest of us a favour, and find somewhere safe to park before they make the call.
David Hazel, UK

Accepting calls on a hands-free kit is one thing, and I don't have a problem with that. As someone who went through a red-light at a pelican crossing with a police car sat behind her because a passenger was making a fuss, I can't see it as being any more distracting and you can hardly ban passengers. BUT looking up and dialling a number should be. As for using a hand held microphone or phone, well that definitely should be banned. While some boy racers may think that they can drive without using their hands, it is helpful if they keep an eye on the road and not at their phone as they scroll through their phone book.
Helen, UK

I already thought that they were banned - as with smoking, drinking or eating whilst you're driving. By the look of most people's driving ability, they barely have the brain capacity to drive even if the conditions were perfect and they are directing all cerebral impulses to the task. Give them a mobile phone - God help us.
Martina, UK

More legislation is NEVER the answer

Lee, England
There is already a law of "driving without due care and attention" which covers the area fine. More legislation is NEVER the answer, as the greater the call for the government to do something, the more responsibility is lost from the hands of the people who should be showing it - US!!
Lee, England

The number of times I've been carved up and nearly run off the road by ignorant drivers yapping on the phone instead of paying attention to their driving convinces me absolutely that all cars should be fitted with devices that disable a mobile phone while the ignition key is turned on. Further, anyone caught using one while driving should get an automatic six month ban and eight points.

Even the hands-free sets are a hazard

Cornie Smith, Wales
Of course they should be banned. Even the hands-free sets are a hazard because they drown out the other sounds that could alert drivers to potential mishaps. A lot of people would argue that they are no different to listening to loud music or heated conversations but of course the likelihood of being 100% alert under these circumstances are very low!
Cornie Smith, Wales

Using a phone while driving is very distracting. I usually turn mine off while driving long distance, or simply ignore it. If it was important, the caller will leave a message or phone back later. I haven't much experience with hands-free kits but I think they're far less distracting - more like talking to a passenger.
Anthony M, UK

I don't think banning mobiles will solve the problem. We talk when passengers are in the car, so why can't we use our mobiles with hands-free kits and loud speakers? Most of the new phones have voice-recognition dialling as well which means you don't take you hands off the wheel.
Shaz M, UK

I have always used hands-free

Maurice Pinner, UK
As a user of a mobile since 1987, it has significantly eased the running of my business while I am on the road. I have always used hands-free, paying over 400 for my first kit. To ban the use of mobiles in cars would put much of UK business back into the dark ages. However, I would fully support any legislation to force the use of hands-free.
Maurice Pinner, UK

There should just be a ban on using any hand-held microphone while driving. I remember seeing a couple of accidents in the late 70s caused by drivers using CB radios getting tangled up trying to talk and negotiate an island. Hands-free kits are far safer.
Pete B, UK

Absolutely ban their use in cars. There is no excuse for driving one-handed and naturally it's bound to affect concentration. People don't seem to accept that driving a car is a responsibility and using a mobile phone shows a selfish disregard for other road users. Maybe the threat of confiscating them on the spot might make people change their minds - if you use them, you'll lose them. Simple as that. If people know the law then there can be no excuses.
Howard Bennett, England

As a cyclist, anything that leaves motorists focusing more of their limited attention on the road ahead is welcome, but I fail to see how a hands-free mobile is more distracting than fighting children in the back, changing a tape, tuning the radio or - worst of the lot - lighting a cigarette on the move.
Guy Chapman, UK

I would have more sympathy with the comments from cyclists if many of them would desist from riding one-handed while eating or smoking, carrrying over-heavy loads (including a second passenger) and especially from riding in poor visibility without any form of lighting. Of course, most cyclists do not do any of these things but, then again, most drivers use hands-free systems or no phone at all.
Derek, UK

See also:

21 Jan 00 | UK
Crackdown on car phones
17 Jul 01 | Health
'Ban mobiles when driving'
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