Do you chat on your mobile while driving?

If you do, a new, hard-hitting safety campaign intends to make you think twice.

It’s a year since new the Department for Transport introduced tougher penalties phoning or texting while you drive.

The fixed-penalty fine doubled to £60, and three penalty points were imposed for the first time. But despite these tougher measures, one in 100 drivers still regularly use a hand-held phone as they drive, and a further one in 200 chat hands-free.

Where previous campaigns have targeted those who hold a phone to their ear, the latest £1.5m radio and TV publicity aims equally at hands-on and hands-free law breakers.

Using the slogan ‘Dying to Take a Call’, the campaign emphasises the risks drivers run.

Research shows that motorists are four times as likely to crash if they’re on the phone. Drivers chatting or texting reacted 50% more slowly than those who kept their phones switched off. They responded even more slowly than if they were drunk.

The DfT also reminds employers that they may end up in court if they insist that staff take or make calls while on the move. It also urges callers to stop the conversation if they realise that the other person is driving and to call back later.

Drivers, meanwhile, should switch phones off and leave their answering service to field calls.

Current laws specifically prohibit the use of a phone while driving, even if stopped in a queue of cars or while waiting at traffic lights. Hands-free users may be prosecuted for failing to keep proper control of their cars. If you cause an accident while on the phone, you will probably be charged with careless or even dangerous driving, offences which carry severe fines and perhaps even a spell in prison. The only exceptions are that you may call 999 or 112 if there’s an emergency.

Stephen Jury


February 8, 2008