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Wednesday, 14 February, 2001, 20:13 GMT
Mobiles and driving - a deadly mix

Using a mobile whilst driving can prove fatal
The dangers of using mobile phones whilst driving have again come under scrutiny following the conviction of lorry driver Paul Browning.

Browning, 36, from Kenley, Surrey, was composing a text message on his mobile phone when he veered off a road and fatally injured a pedestrian.

Text message
Text messaging is a fast-growing trend
Paul Hammond, 24, from Hockley, Essex, was killed in June last year after being hit by Browning's heavy goods vehicle, laden with gas bottles, in a lay-by on the A13 at Pitsea, Essex.

Browning admitted causing death by dangerous driving at a trial earlier this week but denied he was composing a text message at the time of the accident.

But in a ruling on Wednesday, believed to be the first of its kind, a judge found that the text message had played a part in the accident.

Call for a ban

The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) has long campaigned for legislation which would ban the use of mobile phones in cars.

Unofficial figures held by the RoSPA state that, to date, 16 road deaths have occurred in the UK in which mobile phones can be implicated.

Most mobile phone companies issue documentation with new purchases spelling out the dangers of using hand-held mobile phones whilst driving.

Tom Wills-Sandford, director of information and communications at the Federation of the Electronics Industry (FEI) which represents mobile phone operators and manufacturers, said: "The basic principle which should be adhered to by drivers is to obey the law.

"The only objective should be to concentrate on driving and on no account should drivers be reading or sending text messages."

'Tragic consequences'

The Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions has produced a leaflet highlighting the dangers of mixing driving with mobile phones.

The leaflet stresses that although there is currently no legislation banning the use of mobile phones in cars, drivers can be prosecuted for offences such as careless driving or, in more serious cases such as that of Browning, dangerous driving.

Richard Meakin of the DETR said: "Our leaflet, which is being made available to the police and road safety officers, recommends that mobile phones should not be used at all while driving.

"This latest case highlights the tragic consequences which can result if drivers do not maintain proper control of their vehicles."

Mr Meakin said the government would be launching an advertising campaign in the next few months which it hopes will further deter the use of mobiles by drivers.

A government spokesperson said the reason the use of mobile phones whilst driving had not been made a specific offence was because it was feared other forms of distraction, such as putting on make-up, changing CDs or eating whilst driving, would be trivialised.

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09 Sep 00 | UK
Text messaging grows up
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