Mobile ban should go further, says AA
MOTORISTS should not even use "hands-free" mobile phone kits while driving, road-safety groups have urged.
Their advice comes as the total ban on the use of hand-held mobiles by drivers comes into effect today.
The AA Motoring Trust in Scotland issued the safety warning after tests found drivers were six times more likely to have an accident using hands-free systems because their attention is still distracted from driving.
The motoring organisation fears drivers could still be taking considerable risks by using the alternative method to speak on their phones, now that they face 30 on-the-spot fines for using hand-held sets.
Neil Greig, the AA Motoring Trust’s head of policy, said they were concerned after conducting tests at their Berkshire transport research laboratory which confirmed that motorists were still risking lives by using hands-free kits.
"I don’t want people to have the idea that it is suddenly safe for them to speak on their mobile phones using a hands-free kit.
"It is the phone call which is the problem, because it means the person is not concentrating on driving. There is no call worth someone’s life. We conducted tests about two weeks ago which showed that drivers using hands-free kits were six times more likely to have an accident.
"We found drivers missed red lights, went too fast round corners and missed junctions while using hands-free kits."
Under the new law, the 30 fine for the use of a hand-held phone could rise to 1,000 if the case goes to court, while drivers of heavy goods vehicles, buses and coaches could be forced to pay as much as 2,500.
Chief Inspector Bob Barbour of Strathclyde Police said: "The use of a hand-held phone while driving is extremely dangerous and irresponsible.
"Driving requires a high level of concentration and it is vital that motorists keep their hands on the wheel and not on their phones."
Isobel Brydie, chairwoman of the Scottish Campaign Against Irresponsible Drivers, said she welcomed the ban but feared the fines were not high enough. Mrs Brydie, whose 19-year-old son Colin was killed in a road smash in 1985, said yesterday: "The trouble is it is like drink-driving, there is no safe limit.
"When driving you have to have 100 per cent concentration, and that cannot happen if you are be distracted by speaking on a mobile phone.
"It is good that Scottish police forces will be implementing the fines immediately, as there is plenty of evidence around that people know not to drive while speaking on a mobile phone - there has been plenty of advertising.
"However, I think that the fines aren’t high enough to act as a deterrent, as I’m sure a lot of businessmen will be quite prepared to take a 30 fine in order to close an important deal over the phone.
"We need a higher fine and penalty points."
Almost nine million people used a hand-held mobile phone while driving during the last year, new research reveals.
And 709,000 of those admit that using their phone has nearly caused them to have an accident.
At any given time around 500,000 motorists are on the phone in their cars, according to the study by Sainsbury’s Bank.
Fined for a phoney charge
A SPANISH motorist who proved he had not been using his mobile phone while driving was instead fined for "holding his ear with his right hand in a permanent fashion".
Tomas Valdivielso, a lawyer, was stopped near Madrid last week by two Civil Guard highway patrolmen during the morning rush hour.
But when challenged, the man claimed he had been merely scratching his ear. To support his claim, the lawyer was able to show the officers that his phone had not been used since the previous evening. The two officers were not to be denied, however, and decided to fine him 60 (42), issuing a ticket that described his offence as consisting of "holding his ear with his right hand in a permanent fashion".
Following the incident, Mr Valdivielso composed a ten- page appeal to the local court against the officers’ action, which was described as a "work of tongue-in-cheek art".
The judge allowed his appeal and ordered that the fine be refunded.
Spain banned motorists from using mobiles while driving in October last year.
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