Should Uk Legislation Prohibit Hands Free Mobile Phones Whilst Driving?

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Abstract

This paper reviews the relationship of mobile phone usage whilst driving a motor vehicle. It concentrates specifically on the legal use of hands free technology; whether the distracting nature of conversing whilst using these voice recognition activated communication devices is potentially life threatening; or should this currently acceptable practice continue. The reason we can and still utilise hands free technology is explored as well as why phone manufacturers are consistently improving safety and advancing the benefits for the in-transit user. Driver distractions that are commonly thought to impair safety are compared in order to balance the research evidence. The conclusions indicate that hands free mobile phone usage is a distraction and also highlights areas for further study that would benefit not only legislation, but also phone manufacturers and accident investigations.  

Introduction

When driving a motor vehicle you are responsible for the safety of yourself, your passengers, other road users and pedestrians (The Highway Code, 2007). This paper focuses on our use of hands free technology in mobile phones and asks the question whether UK legislation should be changed to impose a total ban on their use whilst in control of a vehicle. It will look at current UK law and focus on what we are presently allowed to do, as well as looking at statistical data, our usage whilst driving, and also introducing policies that some organisations already incorporate into their working procedures whilst employees are conducting business. The advancement in phone manufacturers’ technologies in their products to make it a safer experience within the law is defined, looking specifically at in-car technology, voice-activated connectivity and voice recognition for SMS. The distractions from mobile phone activity, whether hands free or not, are compared to other driver distractions, and will ask whether the change in UK law is a good idea, or whether hands free usage whilst driving is an acceptable distraction.  

Discussion
UK Law

Currently it is legal to use hands free mobile phones when driving, however, if it is believed you are not in control of your vehicle you may face the same penalties as using a hand held mobile phone (The Highway Code, 2007). On 1 December 2003, a law, ‘The Road Vehicles Regulations’ (Legislation, 2003), was enforced to prohibit drivers using a hand held mobile phone, or similar device, whilst driving. Currently a £60 fixed penalty with 3 points added to a license is the baseline. The legislation includes making and receiving calls, pictures or text messages, and accessing the internet, even if queuing in traffic. The only law allowing the use of hand held mobiles phones in a vehicle is if you need to call 999 in response to an emergency where it would be unsafe or impractical to stop.

Ethical

Some of us may admit to breaking this law, whether we take a call, read or send a text. We know it is legally wrong and run the risk of being penalised or risking others safety. On an ethical level we should lead by example even in the most pressing of circumstances but at times curiosity is the over-riding factor. This behaviour is not unethical but illegal because it is dangerous behaviour, as opposed to unethical mobile phone usage; for example, in a cinema or a meeting when the phone should be either on silent or turned off. The ethic of using hands free mobile phones is not an issue in this manner and the safety, concentration and dangers are more pressing discussion points.

Dangers

A substantial body of research shows that using a hand held or hands free mobile phone while driving is a significant distraction, and substantially increases the risk of the driver crashing (RoSPA, 2010). Using a mobile phone, either hand held or hands free, makes you less aware of what is happening on the road, less aware of road signs, likely to disregard stopping distances and maintaining a steady...
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