Transport Secretary Grant Shapps announced today that the government would conduct a review into the existing law preventing handheld mobile use while driving.
The current legislation prohibits using devices for “interactive communication”, such as texting or calling, while driving. However, the law does not ban other uses of the mobile phone such as taking selfies or filming – even though this is clearly distracting.
The case of Ramsey Barreto
demonstrates this inconsistency in the law. On July 31 2019, Mr Barreto was driving past the scene of a serious road traffic collision. He was observed by a police officer to be holding his phone up to the driver’s window to film the scene as he drove past. He was not live-streaming the video; the footage was being recorded on his phone and not being communicated to anybody, ergo he was found not to have committed a driving offence.
RoSPA has been concerned about this loophole for some time because driver distraction is persistently one of the major causes of collisions and accidents on UK roads. The impact of this behaviour is proven – if a driver looks at their phone for just two seconds when travelling at 30 miles per hour, whether to reply to a message or take a quick snap, they will travel 100 feet completely blind, drastically increasing the chance of an accident.
In 2017, 33 people were killed and 90 were seriously injured
in road accidents where the driver was using their mobile phone at the wheel.
In August, on behalf of RoSPA, I wrote the Secretary of State for Justice to make them aware of this situation. In the letter, I raised a number of concerns and asked the Government to review the Road Traffic Act 1988, the law that regulates mobile phone use at the wheel.
The government has now committed to look again at this issue and will be tendering amendments
to current law that will prevent handheld phone use in any capacity while driving. This represents a move forward but does not go the whole distance; RoSPA would like to see using hands-free mobiles while driving banned as well.
A National Safety Council white paper states
that drivers using hands-free mobile phones have a tendency to “look at” but not “see” objects, with estimates indicating that drivers using a mobile phone look but fail to see up to 50 per cent of the information in their driving environment.
This is known as inattention blindness, and means that although drivers are looking through the windscreen, they do not process everything in the road environment that they need to effectively monitor their surroundings, identify potential hazards, and respond to unexpected situations.
Driving remains just about the most dangerous activity that most people will engage in, and as such motorists should give their full attention to the task at hand.
head of road safety, RoSPA
Posted: 11/1/2019 5:39:15 PM