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Coroner suggests cars should block mobile phones

Volkswagen absolved as crash investigation calls for cars to go off the grid

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The Coroner in the Australian State of Victoria has suggested that cars should include kit that makes it impossible to use a mobile phone.

The recommendation comes in findings about the death of Melbourne woman Melissa Ann Ryan in December 2011. Ryan's car was hit from behind by a truck, the driver of which said he did not see brake lights come on.

Ryan's death led Volkswagen, the manufacturer of the car she was driving at the time, to recall 25,000 vehicles, as other drivers had also experienced unexplained deceleration.

Victorian Coroner Heather Spooner has now found (PDF) Ms Ryan's car probably slowed because she was distracted by the phone call she was conducting at the time of the accident.

Spooner's recommendations include a suggestion that “the development of in-vehicle technologies to prevent drivers from using a mobile phone while operating a motor vehicle should be the subject of further research.” Such technology, Spooner argues, would reduce the number of accidents on the roads and save Police time.

The suggestion is just that: there's no framework for a Coroner's recommendation to become law without a great deal more work by all sorts of folks.

Yet as the findings note, evidence suggests that talking on the phone while driving, even in a hands-free rig, is as distracting as talking with the phone in hand. Spooner relied on data from The British Medical Journal to make that statement, showing that it's not just Victoria and Australia where the dangers of phones in cars are being considered. ®

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