I’m sure that we all agree that safety while driving is paramount, although there is an argument that the greater the safety features that are incorporated into our vehicles, the less we are likely to drive with as much care as we should.
Icy and wet conditions, fog and French roads might make us grateful for the plethora of safety features in even the most basic of modern cars though, but there are hidden dangers which we might not be quite so aware of.
The road charity, Brake, has just called for a blanket ban on the use of hands-free phones in cars. Of course, we are all now aware that using a hand-held mobile phone while driving is illegal, and rightly so, but hands-free has long been deemed to be the safe answer to being able to organise your busy lifestyle in the car without breaking the law.
The campaign is being supported by the Association of Chief Police Officers following research that has revealed that up to 98% of motorists showed signs that such activity affected their driving ability. Now that’s an alarmingly high figure.
One of the problems it seems is that the person you are speaking to cannot see the situation you are in. For example, if you are pulling up to a busy junction, the chances are that your passenger is likely to appreciate that you need to concentrate and temporarily cease any conversation. I’ve actually been in a car where the person driving has politely told me to be quiet at a certain point in the journey to allow him to concentrate. The person on the other end of the phone has no idea of the situation you are in and will continue to chat regardless.
Another issue is that your attention is pulled out of the vehicle, so to speak, when you are talking to someone who is elsewhere – it’s far easier for your attention and mind to wander, reducing the split second timing that might be needed to avoid a potential accident.
Although if this ban were to actually happen, I can imagine that spotting someone breaking this law might prove rather difficult.
Making a call on your hand-held mobile or texting while driving now carries the penalty of a £100 fine and 3 points on your licence, although Brake suggest that this sum is too low and a more realistic figure might be somewhere between £500 and £1000.
It’s not the first safety proposal that has hit the headlines in National Road Safety Week. As well as the magnifying glass falling on cycling, the government is also considering changing the age at which teenagers are allowed to take their driving test and (if they pass) unleash themselves on our roads. The proposed plan is, in some ways, akin to how aircraft pilots amass ‘air miles’ to build up their experience.
We could soon see teenagers having to undergo a learner stage from 17 to 18 in which they must total around 100 hours of driving in daylight and 20 hours of night driving under supervision. Following this at 18, individuals can then take the driving test and if they pass, will be issued with a probationary licence and face a night time curfew unless a passenger of 30 years or over is in the car.
At the risk of being chased down the road by teenagers with burning torches, I think this is a good idea. Of course I wouldn’t have thought this as a teenager, but looking back I can safely say that I possibly wasn’t as good – or as safe – a driver as I thought.
Alarmingly, more than a fifth of all road deaths in Britain in 2011 involved young drivers aged between 17 and 24. While a Freedom of Information Act request by Brake revealed that 500,000 people currently have points on their license earned through being distracted while driving which includes mobile phone use.
While the government are proposing stricter regulations regarding the driving test, they are currently not looking at banning hands-free devices.
Images – dailymail.co.uk, telegraph.co.uk