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A ban on using hand-held mobile phones while driving comes into force in Britain today.

Initially offenders will be subject to a £30 fine, which can be increased up to a maximum fine of £1000 if an offence goes to court.

English and Welsh police forces say they will let drivers off with a warning for the next two months, but Scottish forces are taking a tougher line and have already begun to levy fines on errant motorists.

UK drivers are still permitted to use hands-free kits, even though many road safety experts say that no-hands phone calls are as distracting to drivers - and therefore as dangerous - as calls made using handsets.

Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA), knows for sure that since 1998, there have been 20 deaths on Britain’s roads involving mobile phones. Of these, two involved hands-free phones. Neither figure sounds particularly high, does it, considering the numbers of people who use their mobile phones while driving? But a RoSPA spokeswoman says the numbers could be the "tip of the iceberg" as the cause of accidents isn't systematically recorded.

Hmm. It is able to tell us that 3,400 deaths a year in the UK are attributable to road accidents. Many hundreds of these, of course, are pedestrians, some of whom may have been talking on a mobile phone, when they were hit by a car. So perhaps this is the sensible next step, banning the use of mobile phones while crossing the road. Or maybe, as British drivers wise up to speed cameras and revenues come under pressure, the government has unlocked another useful stealth tax.

David Jamieson, Road Safety Minister, said: "You are four times more likely to be involved in an accident when using a mobile phone and driving - and this new offence will help make our roads safer.

"Today's new offence applies to hand-held mobiles - but using any type of phone while driving increases the risk of having an accident. Remember the police can use other powers to prosecute a driver if they are distracted by a call on a hands-free phone."

The Government plans to amend the Road Traffic Offenders Act 1988 to make the new offence punishable to three penalty points to an offenders' driving license and a £60 fixed penalty. It has yet to timetable parliamentary time to push through this change in the law. ®

External Links

Mobile phones and driving FAQ by the Department of Transport

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