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Mobile Phone Confusion

Mobile Phone Confusion

In the UK we have a law dating from 2003 that states we must not use mobile phones whilst driving. Despite this legislation many people still do, thus earning the opprobrium of fellow motorists. This is probably made worse by the fact that the likelihood of being caught at it is slim at best. Nevertheless it is against the law and it is believed that doing otherwise increases the chance of having an accident fourfold.

Even hands-free phones are not immune. Although they are legal drivers can still face penalties starting with the usual three points / sixty quid opening offer. This is possible and we quote “if the police believe you are distracted”. This may be a valid argument but it is very subjective and will largely depend on what side of the bed the officer got out of. Now, however, comes some news that throws the mobile phone debate wide open again.

Let’s be clear from the outset. Motor Blogger is reporting the facts. We are not and will not offer a value judgement as to the rightness or wrongness of what you are about to read.

The news comes from America – where else? Some new research states quite clearly that using a mobile phone whilst driving is not linked to accidents. The research was carried out in the USA by a team from Carnegie Mellon University collaborating with, surprisingly, the London School of Economics. The team found no link between the number of US drivers making phone calls while on the road and the number of accidents recorded.

They analysed more than eight million incidents of car crashes and all fatalities on roads in eight US States. Additionally, they reviewed data before and after 9pm local time over a three-year period because after 9pm many American operators offer free mobile calls during week days. Despite the additional incidence of use, the data did not show any increase in attributable accidents. In other words, despite the huge and sudden increase in the use of mobile phones there was no impact on the crash rate. So there you are.

The research did not include even more stupid actions like texting or browsing at the wheel but the inference is clear. Are we in the UK getting overheated about nothing? It is however important to note that the USA has much more space, wider roads and, basically, more room for cars. British roads are generally tighter and more narrow and less well maintained.

Also, the research does not differentiate on demographic grounds. For example, older drivers are less likely to use devices than young drivers. Would the figures be any different is the groups were split? The basic premise needs to be that drivers who are rash have more accidents anyway. It is unlikely that the UK will amend its stance on the subject but being safe with mobiles is no hardship anyway. It’s against the law so don’t do it.

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- who has written 474 posts on Motor Blogger.

Geoff is a freelance writer and photographer.

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