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British motorists are to be banned from using handheld mobile phones when driving. From December 1 they will be fined £30, rising to up to £1,000, if the case comes to court.

When the government finds parliamentary time, it will enact legislation to add in penalty points too. Drivers who flout the lay will automatically get three penalty points on their driving licence (for those of you outside the UK - 12 points means you are banned) each time they are caught holding a phone.

Road safety minister David Jamieson said today: "Driving whilst using a mobile phone is dangerous. We are all too familiar with the sight of people driving along while holding and talking on their mobile phones. Any driver will be distracted by a
phone call or text message. It affects the ability to concentrate and anticipate the road ahead, putting the driver and other road users at risk."

The government cites research (pdf) that driving and using a mobile phone results in a four-fold ncrease in the chance of having a road accident.

Using hands-free sets when driving will remain legal - which should cause a mini-rush to the phone retailers.

But the government points out: "Hands-free calls
are also distracting and drivers should be aware that they still risk prosecution for failing to have proper control of their vehicle, for careless or even reckless driving if use of a phone affects their
driving in this way."

Quite. According to a Swedish study published this week, talking on a hands-free set when driving is just as dangerous as on a handheld. ®

Govt press release

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