back to article Drivers on the phone face the slammer

New guidelines from the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) mean that drivers on the phone could face two years in prison, as prosecutors may decide to push for a Dangerous Driving conviction which carries the stiffer penalty, according to the BBC. Using a non-hands-free mobile phone when driving has been illegal in the UK since …

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  1. Simon Day
    Stop

    As a brit visiting the states...

    I lived in the states for a couple of years. I was always shocked at the attitude that being asked to wear a seatbelt was an infringment of their freedom and rights.

    I had to tell a few people sat behind me when driving to either put on their seat belt or to get out of the car - and then had to explain that it wasn't just them but the person infront of them (me!) they were risking!

    That and I was generally quite worried by most of the driving over there. I've driven in france, holland, belguim, the uk and london (which is a category in its own right) and have to say that the US is the most worrying in terms of other drivers (though probably the easiest to navigate in terms of directions)

  2. Nigel Whitfield
    Thumb Up

    About time too...

    I'm sure the rabid drivers' lobby will whine about how this is another attack on the motorist - one reason why I don't belong to the AA or the RAC - but it's pretty simple - if you can afford to tax, insure and fill up a car with petrol, you can afford some form of hands free device.

    There are too many tossers driving around in their stupid little 4x4 trucks, Mercs, shiny Lexuses and BMWs, with a phone clamped to their ear, assuming their calls - presumably they need to check for late cancellations at the dick enlargement clinic - are too important to bother with the law.

    When I see some of these fools careering round junctions, I feel like asking them if they're having trouble making repayments on the car. There can't be any other reason for not spending 20 quid, can there?

  3. Scott

    So what I don't get is..

    If using any kind of mobile phone (hands-free or not) is considered to be dangerous, as it is a distraction; then logically listening to the radio or talking to passengers in your car is also a distraction and therefore dangerious as well.

    So does that mean that all car stereo's and passangers are also going to be banned?

    How far do you take this?

  4. Lloyd
    Thumb Down

    Not likely

    I'll believe it when I see it, if an uninsured, unlicensed driver can get off with a £400 fine and 6 points for killing a cyclist (http://www.yourlocalguardian.co.uk/news/topstories/display.var.1856546.0.learner_driver_walks_free_from_court.php) then I doubt anyone's going to be jailed for being on a mobile whilst iin charge of a vehicle.

  5. Simon Greenwood
    Flame

    Has anyone ever been convicted?

    If so, it doesn't stop people driving around with their phone glued to their ear. Cameras might catch them, but that's not admissable. Beat coppers could, but they don't exist anymore (certainly not in my village - we get a group of CSOs who wander around the area by bus). Speed patrols could, but it probably isn't their job. People who continue to think that their calls are more important than controlling their vehicles are ignorant wankers without exception, but it still takes a major accident for them even to be noticed by the police, and these days there are hardly any police to notice them.

  6. Mark

    Re: So what I don't get is..

    But people in the car are able to see you're coming to a corner and have a vested interest in avoiding getting the car creamed in an accident. The radio doesn't care if you listen to it or not.

    A phone caller will want your attention and will not see or have any real vested interest in your safety on the road and how "now isn't a good time, please hang on a second".

    Anyway, you go all night (eight hours, roughly) not talking on the phone to people, so what's a couple of hours off the phone while driving?

  7. Andy
    Stop

    thats good then....

    ..the roads are now safe *rolleyes*... now isnt it time the CPS started on pedos and the like and making sure their stay at her majestys pleasure fits the crime better.. seems a driver is worse in the CPS eyes

  8. Jared Earle
    Stop

    @Scott

    Passengers know when to stop asking you questions when you're at a tricky junction. Your boss/wife/Paris on the phone may be less considerate.

    Please note, the law states that that you can go to jail for dangerous driving while on the phone, not just being on the phone. If a phone is making your driving dangerous, you could spend time in the big house and the streets would be safer.

    Still, how will they distinguish dangerous driving from regular twuntish mobile inconsideration since they've replaced all traffic coppers with cameras?

  9. Edwin
    Flame

    it beggars belief...

    ...that there are still idiots with a phone glued to their face when a €10 headset would sort it.

    What really gets me is that the odds of someone being on the phone non-hands-free seems to be inversely proportional to the price of their car - I see loads of Clios and 20Xs with people on headsets, but Cayennes, X5s, E-class and S-class and 3/5/7 series vehicles get you a 50% chance that there's a phone where none should be.

    Can someone explain this to me in a way that doesn't involve the size of the driver's genitalia vs the price of their car?

  10. Mark Johnson

    @Nigel Whitfield

    I believe the correct plural is 'Lexi'.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    Re:So what I don't get is..

    Fairly Simple I think, If you have a passenger in the car, they can see when you come upto to junctions and can understand when you need to concentrate on something more important than your conversation. It is a distraction but not in the same way that a phone is, in which you have to continue concentrating even when navigating a complex junction you've never heard of.

    Apparently the brain is not very good at handling two tasks of a similar nature at the same time (hence the difficulty of patting head and rubbing tummy), so especially conversations about anything involving geometry is quite distracting to driving.

    Radio/Music is not something you have to concentrate on so probably distracts you less, again when coming upto a junction you don't have to have a response for the radio even if it is something though provoking, you can just stop concentrating on it.

    I wonder if they've got similar rules in Paris.

  12. Cameron Colley

    Easy targets again.

    Of course they'll make being on a mobile a more serious crime, it must be far easier to win a conviction than dangerous driving or, for that matter, robbery, rape etc..

    This will just mean that the "criminals being jailed" figure is higher without tackling serious crime. Makes a lot of sense.

    Re: About time too...

    Aw, diddums Nigel, can't you afford a shiny car like the big boys have? The sad thing is, you probably have a valid point behind that great big chip on your shoulder.

  13. Stu
    Stop

    Riiight...

    So, generally law-abiding people who occasionally use the phone in their car are going to be jailed, whereas the little scrotes who nick cars, drive them without a licence, MOT, or insurance, will - as they currently are - be given a suspended sentence, some community service, and a "driving ban" (which given they didn't have a licence in the first place is completely pointless).

    Get some bloody perspective... Sure, if someone on a mobile actually kills someone, then death by dangerous driving should be a potential charge. But how about ridding the roads of people driving who shouldn't be first? Surely that'd make the roads a much safer place for starters...

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    About time, but with one reservation

    Its right that drivers who DRIVE while using a handheld phone should be prosecuted.

    However, once again the law is an ass and has wrongly defined "driving", thereby bringing the law itself (and everybody who enforces it) into total disrepute.

    Sitting stationary at a red traffic light isn't by ANY stretch of the imagingation "driving", nor is being stuck in a traffic jam with the handbrake on. But police say that both those are loophole offences nevertheless.

    Equally, such calls are not by any stretch of the imagination "dangerous" or in any way improper.

    But did those CPS guidelines go on to say that drivers should NOT be prosecuted for those purely-red-tape offences? If they did not, then the CPS is just as much an ASS as the incompetent twits that wrongly drafted the law.

    Yes, please prosecute where appropriate -- but use elementary common sense, and prosecute only when the driver actually WAS driving and not merely sitting in the seat with the engine running.

  15. Alan Gregson
    Paris Hilton

    @Scott

    Having a conversation on a telephone is very different from listening to a radio or talking to a passenger.

    When talking to someone face-to-face (or side by side in a car) body language and facial expressions make up most of the conversation, these little details are missing over the phone, so to compensate you have to concentrate more carefully on the call - diverting your attention from the road.

    With the radio, yes you get no body language, but then again you don't really concentrate fully on the radio anyway.

    Paris is there because of the famous pictures of her arrest, when the call she was making whilst driving was far to important to end the call whilst being arrested.

  16. Steve Sutton

    Hand's free nonsense

    I'll wager, and I'm guessing here, that the research into hands-free phone driving is flawed.

    The fact is, that when you are driving on a hands free phone, you can dedicate you primary attention to driving, or the call, but not both. While some people are foolish enough to pay more attention to the call, that doesn't mean that everyone does.

    So, here's my question to the researchers: Is there any penalty clause in your research for drivers who don't pay attention to the road? (I imagine that the research goes along the lines of a driving simulator with a phone call or message played - candidates are then paid for each correct answer they give to questions on the information given, motivating them to pay attention to the call, not the driving. For this to be accurate, they must also be told that they will lose all of their money, if they cause an accident or break any driving laws)

  17. Jon Double Nice

    @Nige

    I think, as Alan Partridge pointed out, that the correct plural form is 'Lexi'.

    Bah, I have no evidence other than the anecdotal, but as a cyclist, car drivers on their phones are pure evil.

  18. Richard Rae
    Flame

    Ok, I find this stupid....

    for several reasons.

    1 - jails cost US (you and I the ones tha t are careful) money

    2 - jails are overcrowded

    3 - people tend to get out earlier just to start all over again.

    Now let's try something a little more hurtful...

    £5000 fine + driving ban for 2 years + criminal record.

    This will entail that

    1 - you hit their wallet (so what the rich say)

    2 - you hit the ability to drive (people in category 1 shut ip at this one)

    3 - you give them a criminal record that will stay for ever and a day.

    On the upshot

    1 - the government makes money

    2 - less people in jail

    3 - you can laugh at them

    I think that approach is much much better. of course the cynical (me) would say... They will drive without a license.

    In that case

    1 - tow and detroy the car

    2 - £10000 fine

    3 - jail

    There you go. Tough laws the way they are supposed to be!!!!

  19. Matt
    IT Angle

    @Scott

    Couldn't agree more. In fact, the worst offenders are those driving screaming kids around. They're so busy trying to stop them fighting they seem to have trouble knowing which lane to be in.

    There seems to be very little evidence that driving while talking on a phone is any worse then driving while talking to a passenger in the back seat.

    If the person doing the talking has the sense to only be dealing with a short call and giving the driving part priority then there's little risk of an accident.

    The problem comes when people try and conduct business while driving or anything else which requires a lot of thought. However this seems to be pretty much the same regardless of whether there's a phone involved, or what kind it is.

    On the other hand they should ban any advert that may be seen by a driver. The whole point of an advert is to catch your attention, which isn't good when you're supposed to be driving.

  20. Andy

    Dirty Criminal Scumbags...

    None of this stops the dirty toe rags who broke into my home!

    I wish they spent a fraction of the amount they spend each

    year on motor offenses on stopping real crime.

    --

    I recon what this police state needs is a GPS/chip/tag inserted

    in our brain at birth. The GPS can work out when we are going

    over 30 and send small electrical pulses to the brain and

    paralysing the citizen until the thought police can come round

    give a good beating. The chip could possibly be programmed

    to encourage the citizen to watch more tv, giving out soothing

    pulses when watching any celebrity reality tv show. Then giving

    out painful bursts when watching anything not on the approved

    list, or any ultra violence righty right.

  21. Les Matthew
    Thumb Up

    @Scott

    If it's those car stereo's that you can hear coming a mile off I'm all for it. ;)

  22. John

    Re: So what I don't get is..

    As I understand it from from an article I read investigating it a while ago (possibly in New Scientist) it has to do with the audio quality. There is something about the lower quality of the telephone conversation that takes a whole heap more brain power. The brain has a harder job understanding due to the lower quality and in turn it seriously takes our processing power away from driving unlike talking to someone in the car etc.

    If I can remember roughly when the article was published, or even if it *was* in New Scientist I will try and post a link, it was interesting to read as I always felt the same as yourself prior to reading it.

  23. Alex Hawdon
    Paris Hilton

    Good!

    Good stuff! Totally agree with Nigel's comment - I regularly see people with nice shiny cars who don't seem to think they can afford a handsfree kit and it pisses me off! I'm a bit of a die-hard pedestrian and I love stepping out in front of them (in a controlled manner, of course) while their gesticulating wildly and trusting their Merc's autopilot to take care of the rest.

    With regard to the mobile-detecting GATSO - why the hell not?! If you can rig up a highly directional antennae that can figure out whether there's a phone in use in a moving car and take a shot to prove there's no one else in the vehicle (infra-red?)... I think we have the technology!

    Hrm... do I use the STOP or GO icon?.... Paris it is.

  24. Justin Case
    Paris Hilton

    Full Gaols

    Like there's enough room for even more offenders?

    Hang 'em, that's what I say. Or equip traffic cops with high powered rifles to deliver instant justice. If you're doing nothing wrong you've nothing to fear.

  25. Kate Menzies

    @Scott

    Listening to the radio is a passive activity and no-one expects a reply or any sort of total engagement like they do when talking on the phone. In addition, talking on the phone is different to talking to a fellow passenger because a passenger is also aware of what's going on in and around the car.

    I see people talking on the phone sometimes but what amazes me is the amount of people I see texting while driving.

  26. James Anderson Silver badge

    Dont panic stay indoors and switch of any electtrical devices.

    The old country has the second lowest accident rate in the world.

    By some statistical anomily Finland has the lowest. Judging by the Finns I have met it must be because they are to drunk to walk to the car - (vodka as a safety precaution!).

    The Netherlands is slightly worse than the UK which is sursprising as most Dutch drive at 15 kph to save pertrol.

    The old country also suufers from a spree of violent drug and gang related crime.

    What would be the best use of police time and overcrowded jails?

  27. Mark Allen
    Pirate

    Brainless Drivers

    There are just a lot of brainless, selfish drivers on the road. The best ones are when I look into my rearview mirror to see someone on a phone and smoking a cigarrette at the same time.... I often wonder how that person has managed to get round the roundabout - which hand did they change gear with?!?! The one with the phone in, or the one with the cigarrette in?!? (I assume the steering wheel is being guided by the knees....)

    Personally, I am self employed, and rely on incomming phone calls for work. But no potential client is important enough for me to crash. I'd rather pull over and be five minutes late that try and take a complex call on the move. (And I am talking about Handsfree kit here...)

  28. Big Dave

    @Nigel - "Rabid drivers' lobby"?

    It's plain and obvious you do not drive for a living or even regularly. Perhaps you are a bad or unskilled driver who feels a bit nervous on the road?

    Either way - a very superficial web search will dig up this article: -

    http://john-adams.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2006/12/Seat%20belts%20for%20significance.pdf

    and others giving lots of statistics and evidence supporting exactly the kind of thing the "rabid drivers' lobby" bang on about.

    Drivers ARE an overly persecuted bunch because they are easy targets and a money-spinner for HMG. If drivers were of any one ethnic group there would be no problem getting many of the current "safety" measures repealed on the basis of racism and human rights infringement, but because they aren't they are fair game.

    Fatty foods and alcohol are a vasty bigger danger to society - I look forward to some GATSO equivalent for fat alcoholics and we'll see how fast a "rabid" chubby-winos lobby group springs up.

    There are many, many things more dangerous to do while driving than answering a phone (generally one button press and leaning your head to one side) :- arguing with a spouse or child, looking at shop fronts, applying makeup, changing gear at a corner (also involving taking one hand from the wheel and looking away from the road in front).

    HMG loves to wield statistics and manipulate bleeding hearts to enable the police to up their figures and revenue. Drivers are often the losers and are bound to feel, relative to other 'groups', a tad abused.

  29. Jonathan Schofield

    Mental capacity?

    It may be the law, but I am of the opinion that if you don't have the mental capacity to both use a phone and drive a car, then you shouldn't be doing either.

  30. John

    Re: Re: So what I don't get is..

    Ok, it was in the New Scientist and here is a link to a partial of the story, sadly you need membership to read it in full, but it gives an idea anyways.

    http://technology.newscientist.com/channel/tech/mg18725105.000-the-real-reason-cars-and-cellphones-do-not-mix.html

  31. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    are our prisons not full enough already?

    I'm not saying that talking on the phone whilst driving should be ignored, but seeing as we're aldready short on space, could the government not come up with a more welcome new policy of sending more rapists and burgalars to the big house instead?

  32. Michael Compton
    Boffin

    RE: So what I don't get is..

    Also the beautiful blonde walking on the footpath that wonderfully ornate frontdoor to the house with the lovely spruce tree and so the list goes on.

    Until the fallible meat bag is removed from behind the wheel there will always be accidents and deaths, but guess what people even with out cars at all there will still be accidents and... wait for it.... people will die also, oh the humanity people dying as if there is a shortage or something meh.

  33. Anonymous Coward
    Stop

    Meh

    I got a letter from the police stating that I'd been 'spotted' driving with a mobile and that since the officer in question was on his own and going the other way they weren't going to do anything about it this time but I should be mindful of the fact that it's illegal and that the law applies to me too. etc etc.

    I wrote back stating that actually, I'd been attending a kung fu class and had taken a good wallop on the ear from a slightly over enthusiastic lower graded student. I was therefore driving home holding some ice cubes wrapped in a tshirt to the side of my head.

    I got a written apology in return, but the daft thing is - if it's so dangerous to drive while holding a phone then it's almost certainly dangerous to drive with a tshirt full of ice held in exactly the same position. Not least after a reasonably hefty blow to the head. It's ok though, it wasn't a phone so obviously I wasn't causing any extra risk.

    If I decide to drive 60 miles home tonight balancing a shoe on my head I assume that's ok as well since we don't have a ridiculous and unnecessary law covering operation of an automobile whilst passively maintaining gravitational equilibrium of cranially supported footwear. The law is an ass. 'Driving without due care' or even 'Dangerous driving' should be more than enough of a law to punish those who choose to hold a handset at an inappropriate time while allowing our fine constabulary to actually use their brains and show discretion at those times that using a handheld phone and driving is perfectly safe. But no, we can't assume for one minute that:

    A) our officers have brains and can be trusted to make that judgement, or

    B) the public have brains and can tell the difference between calling home in a static traffic jam and calling home while executing a gear change and changing lane on a roundabout.

    No, much better to pass a blanket law that no one wants to obey and then make complete fools of ourselves by continually upping the consequences because no one really cares.

  34. David Robinson

    @Scott

    Not those old chestnuts again.

    Passengers generally know when to shut up when they see that a situation may be occurring that requires the driver's attention. Listening to the car stereo doesn't require as much brain processing power as carrying out a conversation. Also it won't start enquiring if you are still there if you fall silent.

  35. Dan
    Unhappy

    @Lloyd

    Unfortunately, I think it's possible people will be jailed for this, because it's a hot topic right now. I say 'unfortunately' not because I think you should be allowed to do this stuff, but because politics and hysteria infects everything these days. Society is practically falling apart in some respects, and we are bothered about idiots on the phone? Of course there is a danger to themselves and others, but when, at the same time, scumbags walk free after being convicted of multiple serious offences including assault, theft, fraud etc, legislators need to get their priorities straight.

  36. Dave

    Quite Pathetic

    Punish the masses for the actions of the few. What assholes.

    2 years? That's not going too overboard. Why is it everyone in government has the mentality of a 5yo?

  37. Huw Jenkins
    Thumb Down

    Whilst they're at it...

    They might as ban the elderly, mothers driving 4x4's (who have clearly gone straight from driving a fiesta to a Chelsea tractor) and anyone with less than 4 kids driving a people carrier...

    I think it’s disgusting; I almost crashed 3 times last night trying to send a text. I'm OK with driving with my knees, writing the text and looking up at the road from time to time but now being burdened with having to check the rear-view for police is an outrage!

  38. jai

    tomtom too

    on the news this morning they said it would also include making adjustments to your gps navigator as well - haven't seen that mentioned anywhere else though

  39. Remy Redert

    Re: Scott

    While I doubt passengers will be banned, overly loud stereos should be. Not so much for the distraction they might provide (I personally don't find music in the background distracting. Then again, I'm the kinda of person that is able to completely ignore almost anything if and when I choose to, like when I'm reading a book) but for the fact that they prevent the driver from hearing others outside the vehicle. Things like sirens and other such signals.

  40. Anonymous Coward
    Coat

    @ So what I don't get is..

    You're right to a point although there are degrees of demand on concentration in each of these things..

    Listening to the radio is a one way thing - you don't have to use brain power to formulate responses or to worry about offending someone by ignoring them while you concentrate on a tricky bit of driving.

    While holding a two-way conversation with a passenger in the car requires a lot more concentration to be shifted from driving to talking and listening hopefully the passenger can sense when you need to give your full concentration to driving (although in my opinion that is ALL THE DAMN TIME) and will shut-up when necessary. If they don't it's as bad as a phone conversation.

    Neither of these things apply to phone conversations.

    Where will it stop? It shouldn't have started - there are perfectly good laws against dangerous driving and driving without due care and attention - IMO anyone who is not in full control of their car and fully aware of their surroundings while driving should be busted under these laws whatever the distraction - making specific laws for specific distractions is just another attempt to make it appear that the government is doing something to solve a problem rather than them actually doing something (like putting another few thousand traffic cops on the roads where we need them) to solve a problem. If you can't drive safely you shouldn't be driving. Full stop.

    And to all those people who will insist they can drive perfectly well while holding a conversation - no you can't. You're just not concentrating on your driving hard enough to notice how badly you are driving while you are gabbing away. Almost everyone (myself included) vastly over-estimate how well they are driving anyway.

    So, if you're a passenger in my car you can shut-up or you can walk (though multiple passengers can talk to each other so long as they don't mind me completely ignoring them). The result - no accidents in 15 years driving because I'm giving my full attention to the road and the cars around me.

    There are a lot of muppets around who are just too dumb or arrogant to accept the truth in this and will still insist they can drive like a rally champ with a phone in one hand and a coffee in the other - I'll get my coat and head off now because I want to get home before they hit the roads.

  41. Matt
    Paris Hilton

    @Janed

    A lot of passengers don't know when to shut up and you can put the phone down or not answer if you're at a tricky junction. You can also discipline yourself to stop listening when you need to concentrate whilst driving.

  42. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Why not bikes too?

    But still no word on why this rule doesn't apply to cyclists as well. Or is that regarded as a self resolving problem? It's bad enough that they're riding on the footpaths in the first place, without having one hand holding a phone and a mind off in the ether somewhere.

    I've taken to wearing steel toecapped boots in town centres because of the two wheeled idiots. My feet will be fine, and in good position to deal with the cyclist once he's on the floor.

  43. Scott Evil

    @ Kate Menzies

    Thanks you saved me typing that.

    @Scott next time your driving with your stero on,try and actually listen to everything every spoken word every beat,like say when you have an ipod attached to yer head and your relaxing on the couch (eg:) you will crash for sure or at least stray wildly off the road because your focused attention is not on the road.

    The same reason why people may miss what their partner says to you if your glued to the tv, despite them being right near you and speaking directly at you.

  44. Colin Millar
    Dead Vulture

    Music in the car

    I understood that music in the car could actually improve driving because it keeps you alert without distracting your concentration.

    I don't think it applied to mobile boom-boxes though.

    On using phones this is from the directline site (based on research by TRL)

    "On average it took hand-held mobile phone users half a second longer to react than normal and a third of a second longer to react compared to when they were drunk. At 70 mph, this half-second difference is equivalent to travelling an additional 46 feet (14m) before reacting to a hazard on the road."

    Sick as a parrot icon because moron drivers make me feel that way (and yes - I drive everywhere)

  45. John

    Re: Why not bikes too?

    As far as I know bikes are not allowed to ride on the pavement unless its a designated cycle path, so they are already breaking the law. Other laws of the road apply equally to bikes as well as cars in the whole, One of my friends mates got busted for speeding on a push bike (unless i've been told a porkie) in our local town (small rural affair) and knowing the local copper I can full well believe it too ;)

  46. John Crowther

    @Scott

    ROSPA have a comprehesive report that considers the cognitive distraction of a phone conversation:

    http://www.rospa.com/roadsafety/info/mobile_phone_report.pdf

  47. Karl Williams

    Re : So what I don't get is..

    Re Scott's comment : "So does that mean that all car stereos and passengers are also going to be banned?"

    Although I am by no means an expert on this topic, I once heard some 'experts' discussing this on Radio 4 and here's their answer (or hopefully the gist thereof....)

    Research has shown that using a hands-free mobile phone while driving can reduce your driving ability to a level where it is worse than being over the drink-drive limit.

    Under general boring driving conditions using a mobile phone may not pose too much of a problem but consider a situation where driving conditions change. For example, you approach a busy / complicated / unfamiliar junction, or traffic density increases suddenly. Basically, any situation where there is more information to process and decisions to be made.

    When you are listening to the radio in the car, at any moment you have the choice to reduce how much attention your are paying to the radio and increase how much attention your are paying to driving. You will do this without really noticing.

    When you are involved in a conversation with other passengers, they are also aware of current traffic conditions. They may choose to defer asking you a difficult question for a few minutes. They may pause an ongoing discussion. Most importantly, they will understand if you take a long pause mid-sentence because you have had to increase how much attention you are paying to driving, to the detriment of the conversation.

    When you are involved in a conversation with someone on your hands-free mobile, they are not aware of current traffic conditions. They will not choose to defer asking you a difficult question for a few minutes. They will not pause an ongoing discussion. Most importantly, they will not understand if you take a long pause mid-sentence because you have had to increase how much attention you are paying to driving. You will feel awkward about pausing, and try to continue the conversation, to the detriment of your driving. It is in this scenario that tests have shown that your driving ability can reduce to a level where it is worse than being over the drink-drive limit.

  48. andy rock
    Flame

    i've never understood...

    ...the need for separate laws for things which are ALL covered by 'driving without due care and attention'. is the length of sentence different for denagerous driving?

    oh, andy, as for 'seems a driver is worse in the CPS eyes', they're just as fucking bad if they kill a cyclist because they weren't paying attention to the road. i take great exception to my life being cut short because of somebody's banale conversation they couldn't be arsed to pull over for or wait until they got home to have.

    i ride around Leeds, which is a fairly ok city traffic-wise at the quieter moments of the rush hour (or just after it) and the amount of twats on phones i have to avoid/get out of the way of is unbelievable. it doesn't matter how many lights you've got or hi-vis crap, it is a fact that a driver's attention on the road is flakey at best and it's about time people took that responsibility seriously.

    in my opinion - and i thought this way before i became a cycle commuter - it's manslaughter any way you look at it; if you unintentionally take someone's life because you were careless, a car is as much a weapon as a gun.

  49. Keith T
    Flame

    @ Big Dave

    "Drivers ARE an overly persecuted bunch because they are easy targets and a money-spinner for HMG. If drivers were of any one ethnic group there would be no problem getting many of the current "safety" measures repealed on the basis of racism and human rights infringement, but because they aren't they are fair game."

    Historically it was Winston Churchill who started the ball rolling by deciding that the Road Fund License was too big a pot to be left to roads alone.

    Drivers are easily persecuted 'cos they are easy to spot when they are being twats. If the police actually enforced all the RTA stuff then the constant practice of having half your car over the white line at traffic lights when they're on red would also see you bleating.

    rABiD are well known for their "everybody hates us" whine and seem to constantly use the "if it were foreigners we'd be treated different" rant. The very people who encourage dodgy driving don't seem to give a toss about human rights for those who are wee bit more considerate.

    Give us a break and stop steering with your knees while fiddling around looking for GATSO's on your SatNav.

  50. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    followed someone

    on the highway the other day not long but long enough to be scared the person was all over the road mostly straddling the lanes and speeding up and slowing down for no reason at odd intervals. My thought was oh it's an intoxicated or a very old person possibly having a medical emergency. When finally it wandered over to the shoulder I passed and looking over saw a woman in her thirties talking on the phone gesturing with her hands and oblivious to the fact she was going off the road, looking behind me I noticed she had swerved back into traffic only missing a semi causing it to do serious maneuvers for a commercial vehicle of that size. Now do I think there is any real way to stop it no I don't. We have these laws in places here in the states I have no idea if they are applied or not only that they don't stop this sort of insane behavior.

  51. VmsFiend
    Go

    reducto ad absurdum

    So are they going to make it illegal for airline pilots to talk to air-traffic as well...?

    The whole mobile-while-driving laws should be scrapped as the laws for dangerous / reckless / careless driving can be made to apply.

    But that doesn't make any money. *DOH*

  52. Scott

    Hands-free Devices

    "...as research seems to indicate that drivers lose concentration even when they've got both hands on the wheel."

    Quite right. My father-in-law works at the Liberty Mutual research center (a major insurance company in the U.S.). Their own extensive research on the subject found that drivers talking on a phone via a hands-free device were actually *more* distracted and dangerous than drivers talking on a phone without a hands-free device.

  53. lucas
    Thumb Up

    Good!

    As a cyclist i welcome this move. I say lets enforce the law ourselves. Maybe i'll stop punching drivers windows if they get off their stupid phones.

    Stupid soccer mums in Chelsea... they have enough trouble driving. Dont you know what a left indicator is for?

    Get some oakley bluetooth sunnies, problems solved.

  54. Eileen Bach
    Coat

    House in order me thinks..

    I agree to an extent but this smacks of state mind control again. Why isn't 'elf 'n' safety' all over the county councils for leaving bloody great potholes and other hazards such as overgrown hedgerows, hanging branches, etc, etc? We are constantly being told that crime is on the decrease. Why do we have speeding cop cars cutting up everywhere with sirens and lights going 24/7 when the only way to reach them is via a non emergency number and they don't arrive for 3 days?? This is easy pickings for the treasury once again. Less control me thinks and I'd vote for Ron Paul. I'm hoping that he wins the US presidency cos what happens there happens here later.

  55. Guy

    @Big Dave

    You mean you still have to look at the gearstick when you use it?

  56. Anonymous Coward
    Flame

    Cell phones don't cause accidents...

    Stupid drivers do. Just enforce existing laws, instead of sitting on the side of the road with a donut and a speed gun. Nail the idiot on the cell phone with reckless lane usage now, and you won't have him getting in an accident later.

  57. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I said it in 2003, I said it in 2006...

    ... And I'll say it again:

    Drivers don't care. They will flout the law and continue to do so because they know they can get away with it. Hell, when I see van and lorry drivers yakking on their mobiles while on the road, and they are the ones with the 5 - 30 tonners and are already on £1,000 watch + points, that just sums up the general attitude in this country towards that.

    That said, as much as I detest seeing drivers getting nailed for driving and talking away, and hands-free sets are less of an issue than holding the phone to their ear (and there are MANY of those around), perhaps this is exactly what this country needs. If the police had taken a no-nonsense, no-prisoners approach to the first version of this law, we probably would not have had this escalation in the first place.

    Except the authorities will be exempt, court cases will be fought over this and lost, and we have yet another law that's on the books that is completely and utterly useless.

    I don't know whether to laugh or to cry. And here we are, criticising African banana republics on their politics when our own politics stinks to high heaven.

  58. Anonymous Coward
    Alert

    @Why not bikes too?

    I currently work in Holland (near the beach) and regularly see people riding bikes with their Surf-boards under their arm.

    Another regular sight is people holding phones in one hand and an umbrella in the other!

  59. Nigel Whitfield
    Stop

    @Big Dave

    Actually, I do drive, quite frequently, in London and elsewhere.

    I just don't feel the need to act like a complete wanker every time I get behind the wheel, or scream "Help, I'm being oppressed" every time it's suggested that drivers exercise some consideration for other users of the roads. And the suggestion that someone must be a bad/nervous driver, or not a driver at all, just because they don't agree with the drivers' lobby is precisely why I think they're rabid.

    And, Cameron, I do have a very shiny car (and another one that's covered in bird pooh right now). It has a Parrot CK3100 bluetooth kit, which works a treat. And if someone can afford a big shiny new car, then the cost of one of those is a drop in the ocean.

  60. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Missing the point

    I think a few people on here are kinda missing the point if they are moaning about it being unfair and over the top etc. Its only unfair if you think you are self important enough that you MUST answer a call while driving. Plain and simple. Don't do it and its perfectly fair, its another law that will never effect you, move on and stop moaning about it.

    As already pointed out most of the time its rich self important wankers like the guy I saw at a set of lights (right outside a police station) no his phone, drinking a bottle of water which as the lights changed he opened the window and threw out onto the road before roaring off in his 4x4 still gabbing away. These people deserve to be taken down a peg or two as they think, oh I can afford the fine, what do I care. A night or two in jail and a criminal record might make them feel a little less smug in themselves which I'm all for.

  61. Pat
    Black Helicopters

    Bad drivers are responsible, not mobiles

    This quote from the Telegraph indicates mobile phones are linked (not causative, please notice) in only a very small proportion of crashes:

    "Ministers are keen to take an even stronger line after figures showed that mobile phones were linked to 13 fatal accidents in 2005 and 52 serious crashes."

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2007/12/20/nmobile320.xml

    Possibly the government want the spotlight taken off of the glut of cash-generating speed-cameras; strangely enough road accidents have increased despite these, though the politicos claim they are effective at improving the safety of the piece of road upon which they are focused (i.e the painted white lines).

  62. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Passengers, radio, distraction in general

    > Passengers generally know when to shut up.

    "Generally"? So the times when they *don't*? Generally if I'm using a handsfree and the road conditons require me to concentrate more, I, erm, start ignoring the phone conversation. Once everything's calmed down, I'll tell the caller I missed what they were saying.

    Driving is actually a pretty low level skill. Proof? Pretty much any monkey can do it. Those with good observational skills and decent coordination can afford to divert more attention away from the primary task than those who can barely rub their tum and pat their head. The exemplar of the idiot in the 4x4 weaving over the road is one of those who can barely manage to drive in ideal conditions.

    Radios don't require your attention, but they can certainly engage it. Music also affects the way you drive. Humourous radio shows are a positive menace, as are controversial political discussion shows.

    I don't trust the "extensive research" because the details I *have* seen have been so simplistic as to be irrelevant. Statistics in this case don't mean a fat lot, either. the whole affair is a prime example of over-legislation. The existing "without due care" and "dangerous" driving offenses *suffice* and certainly any prosecution should be able to secure evidence of a phone aggravating an offense.

  63. yeah, right.
    Pirate

    CPS are idiots

    This is the same CPS that refused to prosecute the driver who cost me my leg when they failed every basic driving standard of observation and slammed into me as they came out of their property.

    The coppers on the scene charged her with a variety of offences, and there were a dozen witnesses to the incident who stayed at the scene, but the CPS still refused to prosecute.

    Fuck the CPS. Preferably anally with a rusty chainsaw.

  64. Steve Browne
    Pirate

    If I dont answer my phone

    the agency will not call again.

    But anyway, The police only involve themselves seriously if there is an accident. If you are on a motorway, it may be 30 miles to the next place to stop, you are only permitted on the hard shoulder in case of emergency. I expect that more notice would be taken if the police had not been so quick to persecute motorists in the first A young lady was prosecuted for failing to be in proper control of her vehicle while sitting stationary with the handbrake on at traffic lights, because she took a sip from a bottle of water.

    Easy target for fundraising. Nuff said really.

    Cyclists, ought to be rounded up and exterminated. They are the rudest most annoying creatures found in nature. They persecute motorists by wandering about dangerously in front of them, trying to fit up the inside, abusing pedestrian crossings, ignoring junctions, red lights, think the world owes them a living and that pedestrians ought to get out of their way. Exterminating cyclists should be a high priority for all civilised people.

    Sorry Mr Twat and Bike, if you kill yourself on the road you only have yourself to blame.

  65. Anonymous Coward
    Coat

    Changing gear

    "changing gear at a corner (also involving taking one hand from the wheel and looking away from the road in front)"

    You have to look away from the road to change gear? Bloody amateur. :-P

  66. iamzippy

    Disqualify the Swines

    This is not new legislation, just a shift in the guidelines, folks. CPS has been made aware that it's let too many offenders off kinda lightly. That's my take on it.

    I'm an ex ADI with BSM. I learned on the job that the visual and physical co-ordination required to control a moving car is not something all people are blessed with to the same extent. IMHO there is such a thing as 'motor dyslexia' (that's 'motor' as in 'moving your limbs').

    Co-ordination in motor function is linked to your 'kinaesthetic sense', which is something that people who can fly helicopters (black or otherwise) have in abundance.

    The extent of one's peripheral vision is also part of the mix. Testing the extent of your peripheral vision was part of lesson #1 if I taught you to drive. I got to be very aware of what would put a learner on the fast track or in the slow lane to a driving licence. I would even observe how you walk. If your right arm advanced in sync with your right leg, I made a note, you bet. Ex-squaddies will know where I'm coming from with that.

    OK, cut to the chase. There are too many things in an individual's makeup, dictating what sort of driver they are or can be, to legislate for.

    I dare say that some people are talented enough to juggle ping-pong balls on their eyebrows while they're driving, but that doesn't mean it's a good thing to do.

    The licence is a privilege. If you offend even under the existing legislation, the courts already have the power to take you off the road.

    Short of an event involving death or injury, i.e. manifestly dangerous driving, jailing should not be an option. Society picks up that tab.

    Make the offenders pay all the price, do all the suffering. Mess their lives up real bad; domestically, socially, job-wise, down the toilet.

    Take them off the road. Disqualification. It's a no-brainer.

    To demonstrate how far off the pace just about every driver is, here's three questions that I've not yet heard answered correctly even by a driving instructor:

    1. What is a ROAD?

    2. What is a ROAD USER?

    3. What is a HAZARD?

    Enjoy.

    Merry Season...

  67. The Other Steve
    Stop

    Yeah, but...

    While I agree that anyone whose use of a mobile while driving endangers others should be prosecuted, why do we need a particular law ? Surely we have plenty of other laws that would cover this if they were being properly enforced ?

    Driving without Due Care and attention should be enough to cover all manner of twattish behaviour behind the wheel, using a phone, fiddling with the radio, swatting at your unruly brats in the back seat, applying makeup, lighting cigs, reading the paper, having your stereo turned up so loud that people inside the houses you are passing can hear it, and so on and so forth.

    If this law is not being enforced, what chance for a new, far more specific one ?

    As for a few of the other issues :

    The main reason there aren't more traffic cops is probably because the standard of driving in this country is so piss poor that we would need to build lots more prisons.

    There is to a 'rabid' drivers lobby. These are the people who think being fined for breaking the law is a 'stealth tax', by extension so is a fine for public urination, littering or vandalism. Motorists aren't persecuted, they just offend a lot. Deal.

    As a cyclist, I have to say that anyone riding while talking on a phone is a twat, since you really do need both hands to be properly in control, this is particularly so at low speed when the vehicle is at it's least stable due to lack of forward momentum. Also, your steering is seriously affected by the position of your head and upper body. I fully expect some dickwad from the likewise rabid cycling lobby to contradict this.

    As for getting your toes run over in the city centre by cyclists, you may want to make sure you aren't walking somewhere that's actually a designated cycle route, you'd be surprised where you local authority think it's a good idea to put these. Look out for post card sized blue signs on widely separated lamp posts. There's one here runs the length of the only fully pedestrianised street in the city, which (being the actual High Street), is also the busiest, most pedestrian choked we have. Unfortunately, the alternative is a dual carriageway leading to a three lane, four exit monster roundabout*.

    If you're sure this isn't the case, get a boot in on the idiots from me.

    *personally, I enjoy the cut and thrust manoeuvring, thrilling near death experiences and incompetent driver apoplexy that comes with maintaining proper lane discipline round such a beast in a world full of people who can't see you and/or don't care if they run you over, but it isn't to everyone's taste.

  68. Anonymous Coward
    Unhappy

    @John

    Yes, if they're cycling on the pavement they're breaking the law. But when was the last time anyone got prosecuted for it? Bikes don't have handy ID plates on the front and back like cars do, so you can't mail out a fine based on camera evidence. It's a law that's far too much effort to enforce.

    While a lot of the other laws of the road also apply to bikes, they are rarely enforced for the same reason. A few don't apply to bikes - eg you can't be done for "speeding" on a bike, but you can be done for "cycling furiously" which is much the same thing - and others can be circumvented by getting off and wheeling the thing (seems fair enough).

    The mobile phone rule does not apply to cyclists - even when riding. I wrote in to the Home Office consulation when this law was originally mooted and suggested that if it really was to improve safety then it should. The response was (a) we don't think this is a problem and (b) we couldn't enforce it anyway. So much for safety.

    I'm keeing my steel toecapped boots. A directional cell phone jammer would be handy as well - but of course those are illegal here.

  69. Herby

    Radio listening is "passive"??

    Not to my wife. She comments ALL the time as passenger, then fiddles with the station selector to find something SHE likes (never mind what I'm listening to). Usually this takes place during a commercial but the scanning just goes from one to another. All this tuning of the radio, and stuff is VERY distracting if I pay the slightest bit of attention to the action. Thankfully I seem to dismiss it and concentrate on my driving, as I got into an accident (previous in-"significant other") who did the same thing (I can pick 'em). I suspect the same thing applies (distraction) to young parents of un-restrained small children. Thankfully they require child safety seats here in the USA which limit the mobility of the rug-rats.

    Of course there are people who get blinded by windshields (windscreens), and we have various jokes about which nationality is more affected by this phenomenon (which I leave as an exercise to the reader).

  70. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    This raises many issues in my mind...

    1) As you state, there already is a dangerous driving charge, so use it.

    2) With most of the Police having been replaced with yellow boxes on poles, how exactly is this going to be enforced?

    3) Have the government performed tests on other distractions, like a couple of screaming kids in the back of the 4x4? How do they compare with telephones?

    To be honest the level of sentencing is ridiculous these days, a few years ago I caused a little (<20mph) rear end shunt (sun in eyes, not on the phone, no screaming kids in the back), just one of those things, accidents happen. It was all covered by insurance, no serious injuries, and everyone was able to drive away (my car had the most damage). Unfortunately PC plod happened to spot it, and next thing I knew, £300 fine and 6 points (undue care and attention goes from 3-9 points). No idea what you can do to get 3, maybe running over a hedgehog. Yet these days you see people on "police stop" TV shows driving like complete idiots, no tax or insurance, and getting less punishment than me!

  71. Mark Roome
    Coat

    I am surprised to be the first ...

    Driving to work this morning on the freeway, I looked over to my left and there was a woman 65 miles per hour with her face up next to her rear view mirror putting on her eyeliner!

    I looked away for a couple seconds and when I looked back she was halfway over in my lane.

    I was so surprised that I dropped the sandwich I was eating into the cup of coffee I was holding between my legs. The coffee spilled on me, causing me to drop my cigarette onto the floor. I had to tell my friend who was on my cell at the time that I would call him right back as I had to find it before I set something alight.

  72. Daniel B.
    Thumb Up

    Ah ...

    Well we don't have laws that harsh, but the new Metropolitan Traffic Rules (Mexico City) have effectively banned mobile chatter except for speakerphone mode. Yes, even hands-free sets!

    And they are necessary, I almost earned a Darwin some time ago after doing something stupid: answering my mobile *without* using hands-free, running at 120 km/h on a highway. (Ok, I did slow down to 80 km/h.) Still, I had veered a little bit to the right, and had it not been for a sudden swerve, I might have slammed right into a semi.

    Kids, screw the cellphones. No matter who's calling, DON'T answer 'till you've stopped.

  73. J
    Paris Hilton

    Sure...

    "There are many, many things more dangerous to do while driving than answering a phone"

    Oh, yeah, there sure are... Ah, the memories...

  74. Anonymous Coward
    Flame

    Blackberry

    So I guess replying to emails on the Blackberry whist driving down the M40 is a big no-no, then?

    What about reprogramming the SatNav to avoid a roadblock ahead?

    Or opening a cheese sandwich?

    Or lighting a cigarette?

    (I'll get my coat - the bright orange one marked Prisoner #457746)

  75. Diogenies
    Black Helicopters

    Phone driving more dangerous than Drink Driving

    I know its true because research has proved it and I saw it on Mythbusters the other day - they drank to a smidge below 0.08 (which is higher than the aussie 0.05) - they performed a few tests of different types of conversations (eg tell me 10 things that are in your car, multiply 7 * 9 etc ) and the driving skills shown were demonstrably worse than when they had a skinful.

    As for the comment about pilots not talking to ATC what tosh - ATC keep planes seperated enough so that even if you are distracted their is no chance of hitting another plane, or pedestrian , or light post

  76. Rich
    Paris Hilton

    Kids in the car

    Are people who drive with distracting young children on board going to be jailed as well - and the kids presumably thrown out on the streets to beg?

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