Most of us know that it’s unsafe and illegal to use a hand-held mobile phone while driving, but that doesn’t seem to stop people doing it. It has been against UK law since December 2003. If you break this law, even if you are otherwise driving safely, you could face a fine of £60 and three penalty points on your licence. If your driving is bad, or if there is a crash while you are using the phone, you could be prosecuted for careless driving, dangerous driving or, if someone is killed, for causing death by careless or dangerous driving. Fines can be much greater, and prison becomes almost certain if a death is caused.
It’s easy to think ‘it won’t happen to me’, but by using your phone while on the road you are putting your own life and those of anyone else in the car at unnecessary risk.
A report by the road charity Brake and the Fleet Safety Forum, has found that most drivers are unable to identify the level of distraction their phone provides and over 97 per cent of people can’t divide their attention without seriously hampering their driving ability.
Texting and browsing
The advance of smartphones has made using mobiles while driving all the more tempting. You can now be distracted by emails and social media updates as well as text messages.
Research into the impact of texting while driving on young people found that the amount of time they spend with their eyes off the road increased by 400 per cent. Meanwhile, for commercial drivers, texting makes crashing 23 times more likely.
Talking while driving is a big distraction, even when using a hands-free set. Research has found your attention levels remain lower for up to ten minutes after a call has finished and hands-free drivers take 20 per cent longer to brake when needed, which is big difference.
It’s more risky to talk over the phone than speaking to someone who’s actually in the car with you. Passengers will naturally pause the conversation depending on what’s happening on the road, people on the other end of a phone don’t have this level of awareness.
Mobile phones and driving don’t mix
A substantial body of research shows that using a hand-held or hands-free mobile phone while driving is a significant distraction, and substantially increases the risk of the driver crashing.
Drivers who use a mobile phone, whether hand-held or hands-free:
- are much less aware of what‟s happening on the road around them
- fail to see road signs
- fail to maintain proper lane position and steady speed
- are more likely to “tailgate‟ the vehicle in front
- react more slowly, take longer to brake and longer to stop
- are more likely to enter unsafe gaps in traffic
- feel more stressed and frustrated.
They are also four times more likely to crash, injuring or killing themselves and other people.
How to get by without your phone whilst driving
There are plenty of steps you can take to combat the temptation of using your phone while on the road. First of all turn your phone off and put it away and out of sight. If you’re worried about missing calls, set up a voicemail explaining you are driving and will return the call later. If it’s essential that calls are answered, have calls diverted so they can be picked up at your home or office.
While companies may worry that not allowing drivers to use their phones will have a negative impact on business, firms that have implemented mobile bans have not found this to be the case. After all, the quality of your conversation while driving tends to be poorer, as you’re concentrating on two things at once.
And remember the impact of suffering an accident is far far worse than missing a phone call.
Important Loophole in the UK Law.
The law that prohibits the driver of a vehicle using a mobile phone device is specifically for devices in the range 900MHZ, 1800MHZ and 2100 MHZ.
Anything else is not covered by UK government legislation. The government have not updated the law to take in to account the arrival of the new 4G phones. Mobile phones on the 4G network are in the 600 MHz band and the law doesn’t cover that, and I don’t think anyone realises it.
The reason why the UK legislation is so specific for those frequencies is so that the emergency services can still use their radios and not be prosecuted. This also means that if you have a CB in your car you can still use that.
A lot of people don’t realise that the law only covers specific frequencies, and a lot of people don’t realise that the 4G network is not (yet) covered.
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