23/02/2007

Mobile ban ignored by drivers

The RAC Foundation has warned that around 500,000 motorists are using mobiles while driving despite stiff penalties.

With just one weekend to go until new, stiffer penalties for using hand-held phones behind the wheel come into force, the RAC Foundation has called for better support from mobile phone retailers about the safe use of phones behind the wheel if they are to avoid a fine, points, or an accident.

The RAC Foundation is warning motorists to stop taking a chance. It has been illegal to use a hand-held mobile behind the wheel since 1 December 2003, but around half-a-million motorists break this law every day. From February 27 mobile menaces will face a £60 fine and 3 points on their licences.

Police have made it clear that they will implement the new laws which do not require a car to be stopped in order to issue a penalty and three points.

In a survey, one quarter of retailers advised RAC Foundation researchers that Bluetooth headsets would allow motorists to talk and drive safely at the same time.

However, the Foundation is concerned that this understates the risk of trying to make calls while behind the wheel. New research from the US has revealed that, while hands-free is better than hands-on, it is still a potential distraction, and cannot really be described as 'safe' as driver reaction times slow.

The Foundation is calling on retailers and network operators to make advice more easily available to motorists.

'Mystery shoppers' found leaflets about safe use of phones while driving in just two stores (both O2 stores).

(SP/KMcA)

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