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EDITIONS
Tuesday, 20 August, 2002, 07:50 GMT 08:50 UK
Move to ban 'mobile drivers' criticised
Driver using mobile phone
Using a mobile has been compared to drink driving
Drivers should also be stopped from smoking and eating at the wheel if the use of mobile phones is to be banned, a motoring group has said.

The AA said there were many other dangerous in-car distractions - including applying make-up, drinking and even shaving.

The Department of Transport has confirmed it is considering a complete ban on the use of mobile phones by all drivers, even when stopped at lights or in a traffic jam.


We cannot have a law banning the use of mobiles without one to ban eating, smoking, drinking, applying make-up or shaving for that matter

The AA
The law currently prosecutes motorists using mobiles only if they fail to keep proper control of their vehicle - there is no actual law specifically prohibiting the use of mobiles while driving.

Yet research suggests that people using mobile phones behind the wheel are four times more likely to have an accident than other motorists.

The new regulations would also target employers who let their employees use mobiles in company cars.

But the legislation would stop short of banning hands-free phones, which would still be permitted.

Consultation will take place over a 12-week period, with motoring organisations and road accident lobby groups among those taking part.

Bert Morris, the AA's public policy manager said: "We cannot have a law banning the use of mobiles without one to ban eating, smoking, drinking, applying make-up or shaving for that matter."

Mr Morris said fixed penalties could be used to target such distractions which he described as "potential killers".

Driver distractions

The RAC Foundation also pointed out that drivers faced "hundreds" of distractions while driving, including passengers, posters, cones, congestion and cyclists.

Executive director Edmund King added: "In the early 60s, many people raised fears about the distracting effects of having a radio in the car.


Retuning the radio probably causes more accidents than using a mobile

RAC Foundation
"The use of a hand-held phone is obviously dangerous and the police should crack down on this activity with or without a specific ban.

"The only problem with specific legislation is where do you stop? Retuning the radio probably causes more accidents than using a mobile."

The new offence could leave drivers subject to a 30 fixed penalty or a conviction of up to 1,000.

The transport department said it estimated that any changes to regulations could see the issuing of 100,000 fixed penalty notices a year and about 5,000 prosecutions in court a year.

Minister for Road Safety David Jamieson told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that employers could be held responsible if they expect staff to take calls as part of their job.

He said: "If people are expected as part of their job to take calls, which are sometimes 10 or 20 minutes long, and then cause a serious hazard to other people on the road as well as themselves then clearly we have got to take action about that as well."

The number of drivers using mobiles has grown from 1.5% in November 2000 to 2.2% in April this year, according to the department.

Hands-free danger

The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (Rospa) is backing efforts to make mobile phone driving a criminal offence.

It says mobile phone bans exist in 35 other countries and should be introduced in the UK.

Distance before braking response at 70mph
Normal driving - 31m
Drunk-driving - 35m
Using mobile - 45m
At its conference earlier this year the British Medical Association also called for a ban.

Members quoted research carried out in Canada which showed a substantial increase in the number of accidents at times when mobile phones were being used.

It also showed little difference in the potential danger of hands-free phones and mobiles.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Simon Montague
"Most drivers now think using mobiles while driving is wrong"
Labour MP Louise Ellman
"We have to do everything possible to reduce deaths and injuries on our roads"
Transport minister David Jamieson
"There's growing disquiet about the number of people using mobile phones while driving"
 VOTE RESULTS
Should mobiles be banned at the wheel?

Yes
 83.39% 

No
 16.61% 

11502 Votes Cast

Results are indicative and may not reflect public opinion

See also:

02 Jul 02 | BMA Conference
17 Jul 01 | Health
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