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UK Parliament Calls For Hands-Free Cell Phone Ban
UK Transport Committee calls for banning all cell phone conversations, even those using bluetooth, while driving.

House of Commons report cover
Talking on a cell phone, even with both hands on the wheel, could soon become an offense in the UK. The House of Commons Select Committee on Transport on Tuesday announced its intention to expand driver distraction laws to extend to having conversations over a bluetooth connection. To justify the move, the committee released a report on the risks of using a mobile phone while driving.

"While we accept that there would be practical challenges to criminalizing hands-free devices and enforcing this offense, we agree with Dr Gemma Briggs that just because something is difficult this does not mean that we should not do it," the report explained.

The report summarized testimony and written submissions from academics, police agencies and insurance industry-funded groups. A Transport Research Laboratory researcher claimed using a hands-free phone was the equivalent of having a blood alcohol content of 0.08, and psychology professors from the University of Sussex and the Open University insisted phone use makes drivers dumber.

"We also heard that using a mobile phone can affect visual perception to the extent that a driver can have their eyes on the road and look directly at a hazard yet fail to see it, because they do not have the cognitive resources available to do so," the report explained.

According to Department for Transport statistics, an average of 26 people die each year in accidents in which cell phone use is a contributory factor out of about 1800 annual deaths. Under existing law, using a cell phone behind the wheel -- even while stopped -- carries a penalty that was recently raised to £200 (US $241) and six points, which significantly raises insurance rates. In the past seven years, 726,500 such tickets have been issued, generating £77 million (US $88 million) in revenue. The report called for stepping up the number of tickets issued.

"Some police forces have been making use of new cameras and other sensors to identify drivers who are using mobile phones," the report noted. "We... recommend that -- as part of this review -- the government engage with police forces and police and crime commissioners to explore options for improving the enforcement of this offense. This should include looking at opportunities for making greater use of technology."

The Alliance of British Drivers (ABD) blasted the move to expand this law to cover hands-free usage for everyone simply to address the problem caused by a few.

"Anything can be allowed to become a distraction by a driver," the group's spokesman, Nigel Humphries, said. "There is however a small element of drivers who are either incompetent or simply reckless in their judgement. Such people often cannot even talk to a passenger without taking their eyes off the road. Instead of banning potential distractions one by one and punishing those who act responsibly, education and enforcement, as ever, must be aimed at the incompetent and the reckless."

A copy of the Transport Committee report is available in a 400k PDF file at the source link below.

Source: PDF File Driving while using a mobile phone (UK House of Commons, 8/13/2019)

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