The Government’s Transport Committee has recommended an overhaul of the mobile phone laws, to include consideration of banning hands-free calls. We’re delighted to hear this news at RoSPA, as it’s something we’ve been advocating for many years now, and so we urge the Government to seriously take a look at this issue.
The fact is, the current mobile phone law is not fit for purpose. Just last week, a case in the High Court exposed its deficiencies when judges upheld a decision to quash a man’s conviction for filming the scene of an accident when he was driving. The driver’s lawyers argued that, as he wasn’t engaged in “interactive communication”, the action of filming while driving didn’t constitute an offence under the current act. You can read the judgement here: www.judiciary.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/07/19-07-31-DPP-v-Barreto-Ref.-CO2702019-Judgment.pdf
When the law was implemented in 2003 it was too narrow in its scope, and so only covers handheld mobile phones and, as we’ve discovered, “interactive communication”. It was in no way designed to take into account new developments in mobile phone technology, nor keep pace with the speed with which they have advanced. It must be updated.
Following the High Court case we wrote to the Secretary of State for Justice to implore him to look at the law, and this new report from the Transport Committee will hopefully jolt the Government into action.
It’s also a fact that calls using hands-free phones are just as distracting, as it is the cognitive processes involved in having a conversation that take attention away from what’s happening on and around the road. You can read the most recent study on this here: www3.open.ac.uk/media/fullstory.aspx?id=31781
So any new law must
include hands-free. There is no conversation that is worth putting other people’s lives at risk.
Finally, the Transport Committee make reference to the fact that more enforcement is needed. The number of people being killed or seriously injured in crashes in which a mobile phone was a distraction has been steadily increasing since 2011. In 2017, the number of people killed stood at 43.
That’s 43 families who have lost loved ones because someone was using a mobile phone behind the wheel. This is completely unacceptable, and the Government must take action. But any new law must be enforced, and so the number of police on our roads must be addressed as a matter of urgency.
Despite this, any blanket ban of all mobile technology while behind the wheel would send a strong, clear message to drivers without ambiguity – there is no form of mobile phone use that is acceptable behind the wheel.
Nick Lloyd, acting head of road safety
Posted: 8/14/2019 10:06:14 AM