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UK to tighten mobile phone driving laws

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Autocar Professional
17th October, 2020 07:31 IST

The UK government has launched a consultation to tighten laws around using handheld mobile phones while driving so that it will be illegal in all circumstances.

While it's a criminal offence to make handheld calls or send texts while driving, there's currently no law against using mobiles in other ways, for example to play games. The UK government has launched a consultation to tighten laws around using handheld mobile phones while driving so that it will be illegal in all circumstances.

While it's a criminal offence to make handheld calls or send texts while driving, there's currently no law against using mobiles in other ways, for example to play games. This is because these acts, which include scrolling through music playlists and even taking photos or videos, aren't viewed as ‘interactive communication’ - the current definition of the offence.

Roads minister Baroness Charlotte Vere, who announced the plans yesterday, said: “Our roads are some of the safest in the world, but we want to make sure they’re safer still by bringing the law into the 21st century."

The president of the AA, Edmund King, said: “There's no excuse for picking up a mobile phone when driving, so we're pleased this loophole will be closed.

“Phones do so much more than calls and texts, so it's only right that the law is changed to keep pace with technology. Tweets, TikTok and Instagram snaps can all wait until you park up.

“If you can’t resist the temptation to pick up your phone, then you should convert your glovebox into a phonebox.”

While drivers will no longer be allowed to use handheld phones, hands-free phones and other devices haven't been banned, so drivers can continue to make calls on loudspeaker and use hands-free sat-navs.

The UK government expects the new proposals to be in place by early 2021.

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What is distracted driving?
Distracted driving is defined as any activity that diverts a person’s attention from their primary task of driving. These types of activities include the usage of a mobile phone, eating and drinking, conversation with co-passengers, self-grooming, reading or watching videos, adjusting the radio or music player and even using a GPS system for navigating locations. Amongst these, mobile phone usage is said to be the most distracting factor.

Distracted driving has been identified as an important risk factor in road traffic injuries. Mobile phone usage has developed into a primary source of driver distraction as it can induce drivers to take their attention off the road, thus making vehicle occupants more vulnerable to road crashes.

The use of mobile phones while driving causes four types of mutually non-exclusive distractions – visual, auditory, cognitive and manual/physical. While visual distractions cause drivers to look away from the roadway, manual distractions require the driver to take their hands off the steering wheel, auditory distractions mask those sounds that are crucial for the driver to hear while driving and cognitive ones induce the driver to think about something other than driving.

It has been established that distraction caused by mobile phone usage while driving, can deprecate driving performance, for instance increasing reaction time and increasing frequency of lane change. Distractions while driving have now joined alcohol and speeding as leading factors in fatal and serious injury crashesDistracted drivers are about four times as likely to be involved in crashes as those who are focused on driving.

ALSO READ: First India distracted driving study reveals high level of cellphone use

North India tops the chart in rampant use of cellphones while driving: Survey

 

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