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Road Safety Wales tells motorists to "switch off before you drive off"...

Almost 1,000 drivers in Wales were caught illegally using their mobile phone at the wheel during a two-week long campaign last month by police forces across the country. However, reports published earlier this year regarding phone usage by motorists suggests that police across England and Wales are barely scratching the surface of the problem.

Nearly half the 972 motorists fined in last month’s All-Wales Anti-Mobile Phone While Driving were from the Dyfed-Powys Police area, with 242 caught by South Wales Police, 148 by North Wales Police and 128 by Gwent Police.

Susan Storch, chairperson of Road Safety Wales, which co-ordinated the initiative commented: "We all need to take account of how we drive on our roads and driving a vehicle requires us to multi-task so anything above and beyond that needs to wait until we are safely parked up or until our journey has finished," she added.

"While it's saddening to see that so many motorists got caught using a mobile phone whilst driving it has also demonstrated the resolve of all the Road Safety Wales partners in tackling this issue and we will continue to work together to drive home the message that you need to switch off before you drive off."

Inspector Lee Ford of Gwent Police added: "This campaign is just one part of our ongoing effort to target and reduce the number of drivers who risk becoming involved in a serious or fatal collision due to using a mobile phone while driving."

Prior to the campaign, which ran from 8th October to 21st October, being launched, Inspector Ford had said: "The consequences of a momentary lapse in concentration when driving can be devastating to road users and pedestrians.

"As soon as a driver answers a call, looks at their phone to text or read a message, their concentration is affected and as a result, they cannot give their full attention to the road and risk becoming involved in a collision.

"With the greater use of smartphones, drivers need to be aware that it is not just making a call or texting that are distractions, but using a phone to access applications, e-mails or the internet. These actions carry the same danger, hence, the same penalty.

"Remember to switch off before you drive and pick up any missed calls or texts when it is safe and convenient to do so. If you need to use the phone when driving, then stop at the first safe opportunity."

Using a handheld mobile phone while driving – including while stopped in traffic or while waiting at traffic lights – has been illegal since 2003 and is punishable by a fixed penalty of £60 and 3 points on the motorist’s driving licence. Cases that go to court can result in a maximum fine of £1,000 for car drivers and £2,500 for those in charge of larger vehicles such as buses or lorries.

Hands-free kits can be used, although drivers can still be prosecuted for driving without due care and atention should prosecutors determine that they were distracted by the equipment.

As Inspector Ford said, the rise of smartphone usage has also exacerbated the problem – a report commissioned by road safety charity IAM from the Transport Research Laboratory published in March this year found that accessing social networks on the move is more dangerous than driving while under the influence of drink or drugs.

At the start of this year, insurer Swiftcover revealed that following a Freedom of Information request, it had found that 171,000 motorists in England and Wales had been fined and had their licences endorsed during the previous 12 months as a result of illegal mobile phone use.

The company added that its own research among drivers suggested that only 3 per cent of those who use their phone behind the wheel were getting caught.

Commenting on that revelation, Katie Shephard of the road safety charity Brake said: “If 171,000 drivers have been caught, perhaps the penalties aren’t high enough.

“There is no call important enough to risk your life or that or another road user. Our message to all drivers is switch off your mobile when behind the wheel.”

You don’t have to spend too long standing at the side of a reasonably buy road watching traffic pass to realise that it’s a message that still isn’t getting through.
 

Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.

45 comments

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antonio [1103 posts] 3 years ago
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A policeman on a bike with a video camera could catch a hundred in a month in our district. Easy money, don't really need to increase the fine, just the capture rate.

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Simon_MacMichael [2443 posts] 3 years ago
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antonio wrote:

A policeman on a bike with a video camera could catch a hundred in a month in our district. Easy money, don't really need to increase the fine, just the capture rate.

100 a month? 100 a day where I am, easily...  102

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issacforce [210 posts] 3 years ago
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put the fine up to £1000 and six points. 2 strikes and ur out

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2Loose [35 posts] 3 years ago
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If the fines went back to the police, then a lunchtime test suggests that 15 minutes a day, 7 days a week could finance 3 full time officers around Nottingham.

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Simon E [2542 posts] 3 years ago
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In my experience "barely scratching the surface of the problem" is about right. However, I have an idea:

Once this news has hit the TV and papers each force should put out a press release suggesting that, as this is such a problem, they will be stepping up their enforcement. In urban areas they will have plain clothes units and CPOs riding bicycles able to video the traffic with hi-res cameras fitted with automatical number plate recognition software.

You can bet that a significant number of drivers will suddenly be VERY much aware of any cyclists they see!

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Littlesox [78 posts] 3 years ago
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Suspend their licence for a month.

Easy peasy

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WolfieSmith [1245 posts] 3 years ago
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I agree with Issacforce. £1,000 and 6 points. My car is too old in the tooth for bluetooth but I've been using a £50 Motorola hands free for years and it works just fine. I can't bear seeing those lazy people in £60k 'gitpanzers' who can't be bothered to read how to connect their phone to their car.

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OldRidgeback [2554 posts] 3 years ago
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Since the risk of accident is as high as drink driving, why isn't the sentence? Drink driving will see a 12 month ban unless the driver has a very good excuse. Using a phone while driving should be the same.

And let's ban hands-free kits while we're at it since all the evidence shows they are just as dangerous.

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notfastenough [3661 posts] 3 years ago
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MercuryOne wrote:

I agree with Issacforce. £1,000 and 6 points. My car is too old in the tooth for bluetooth but I've been using a £50 Motorola hands free for years and it works just fine. I can't bear seeing those lazy people in £60k 'gitpanzers' who can't be bothered to read how to connect their phone to their car.

The mind boggles - the dealer shows you how to do it/does it for you when you collect the car!

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dave atkinson [6144 posts] 3 years ago
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MercuryOne wrote:

gitpanzers

 1

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themartincox [468 posts] 3 years ago
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notfastenough wrote:
MercuryOne wrote:

I agree with Issacforce. £1,000 and 6 points. My car is too old in the tooth for bluetooth but I've been using a £50 Motorola hands free for years and it works just fine. I can't bear seeing those lazy people in £60k 'gitpanzers' who can't be bothered to read how to connect their phone to their car.

The mind boggles - the dealer shows you how to do it/does it for you when you collect the car!

I come from the mobile business and oddly enough, the dealers cant wait to get rid of the customers - I had a nice client with his crazy expensive super Jag and the dealer informed him that his new phone was the issue not their car and it couldnt be paired up. I visited the customer and it took me all of 15 seconds to do - customer actually moved his business as a result of the poor service from Jaguar!

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therevokid [911 posts] 3 years ago
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had one this morning ....

there I am 60mph, lane 1, M4. Nothing in lane 2 or
3 and some guy comes up behind me, sits there for a
mile or so then starts flashing his lights ! I see
he's got his left hand to his head and work out he's
on the phone ... ggrrrrr

Now ... he's driving a VW, like me, with left hand
clamped to the left side of his head and adamant he's
not going to use lane 2 - a) where does he think I'm
to go, b) how's he flash his lights as the switch is
on the left !!!

I tried later on and it means reaching THROUGH the
steering wheel with your right hand !

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Simon E [2542 posts] 3 years ago
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All you hands-free drivers - I suspect you're not as good at multitasking while at the wheel as you think you are.

FFS why can't people just TURN THE DAMN THING OFF FOR A WHILE?

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SpamSpamSpam [20 posts] 3 years ago
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Simon E wrote:

All you hands-free drivers - I suspect you're not as good at multitasking while at the wheel as you think you are.

FFS why can't people just TURN THE DAMN THING OFF FOR A WHILE?

Totally agree. Using a hands-free doesn't make it safe.

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Simmo72 [584 posts] 3 years ago
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good idea. at the end of the day there is no excuse for using a phone whilst driving.

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hoski [78 posts] 3 years ago
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If the figures of: 171,000 motorists are caught and fined, and 3% of people are caught, are correct... that means that there are 5.7 million motorists out there who use their phones whilst driving, and are apparently happy to admit it.

I hate people. It's a little bit demoralising that, despite all the public information on the subject, collectively we seem to be entirely incapable of behaving in a sensible way. I include myself in that, but at least I don't drive whilst on the bloody phone.

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phax71 [284 posts] 3 years ago
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On an afternoon ride last week I saw three within approx 2 miles, I wasn't looking for them, I just happened to see them - pulling out of juntions, etc .... Lord knows how many I catually passed.

As someone who very nearly had a very bad accident a couple of years back at a traffic island with some moron in a pickup truck who decided to cut straight across me whilst chartting on his mobile, I'd like to see this punished pretty severely, drivers seem to think they're entitled to have one hand off the wheel conducting conversations whilst driving a tonne of steel/aluminium around at speed ... £500 fines might teach them different.

... and without being too sexist about this, from my experiences, I find women are by far the worst offenders, sorry, thats just the way I see it ..

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Edgeley [260 posts] 3 years ago
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Gitpanzer is good.

Even worse than phoning gitpanzerfuhrerin are phoning lorry drivers. A few blitzes by the police in each area would be very welcome. At the very least people could go and buy and connect a £18 hands free headset.

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sim1515 [141 posts] 3 years ago
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I agree that driving with a phone in your hand is illegal and dangerous, especially texting or using social media apps which actually require you to concentrate and read the screen, I think Oldridgeback makes a valid point in that if they say it's as dangerous, why not give the same punishment?

I disagree though with the hands free points, driving whilst talking on hands free or Bluetooth is essentially the same as talking to your passenger ad safer than having a conversation with someone in the back as you're not tempted to either turn and look at them or look at them in the mirror. If I want to pick up a call, I press a button on my steering wheel (or on the earpiece of a hands free unit), if I want to make one I can dial using my car's control or a synced address book, as simple as changing radio stations. There are lots of reasons why people talk on the phone while driving (mine are to let my wife know when I'm nearly home so she can get ready or get the dinner on or maybe to let her know I'll be late, we usually have a chat about how the day's gone too, good use of time if you work late) so as long as it's legal (and safe in my opinion), I'll carry on doing it!

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John_the_Monkey [436 posts] 3 years ago
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sim1515 wrote:

I disagree though with the hands free points, driving whilst talking on hands free or Bluetooth is essentially the same as talking to your passenger ad

In what sense?

Most studies (last time I looked, the only contradictory one was commissioned by a headset manufacturer) show that use of hands free technology affects hazard perception & reaction times more than talking to an in-car passenger.

There's little difference between handheld and hands free in that respect, if I remember the results correctly.

The current Highway Code acknowledges this;

"Using hands-free equipment is also likely to distract your attention from the road. It is far safer not to use any telephone while you are driving or riding - find a safe place to stop first or use the voicemail facility and listen to messages later." (Rule 149)

Personally, I don't take, or make calls whilst driving (or cycling, for that matter).

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therevokid [911 posts] 3 years ago
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driving is my "quiet" time where I can just ignore
the damned phone completely ... the rings, the beeps,
the buzzes ... all ignored until I'm home  1

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sim1515 [141 posts] 3 years ago
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That's purely my opinion, I can't see a noticeable difference in talking on my Bluetooth hands free to my wife or talking to her if she was in the car, how are the two actually different (apart from her not being there)? There are also quite a few other things likely to distract you from the road, like lighting a cigarette, tuning your radio, talking to passengers but they're acceptable.

As I said, those were my reasons for wanting to talk on the phone, if others want some quiet time that's their decision, I just find it a good use of time when driving home from work.

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Simon E [2542 posts] 3 years ago
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sim1515 wrote:

I can't see a noticeable difference in talking on my Bluetooth hands free to my wife or talking to her if she was in the car, how are the two actually different (apart from her not being there)?

Another one who likes to overestimate his multitasking skills, you sound like the drink-driver who thinks they're totally in control of their vehicle... before they go through a hedge.

You needn't concern yourself with the facts then (more here, found in seconds).

It's a phone, not a pacemaker. Turn it off.

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sim1515 [141 posts] 3 years ago
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Simon E wrote:
sim1515 wrote:

I can't see a noticeable difference in talking on my Bluetooth hands free to my wife or talking to her if she was in the car, how are the two actually different (apart from her not being there)?

Another one who likes to overestimate his multitasking skills, you sound like the drink-driver who thinks they're totally in control of their vehicle... before they go through a hedge.

You needn't concern yourself with the facts then (more here, found in seconds).

It's a phone, not a pacemaker. Turn it off.

Firstly who are you to judge my multitasking skills, you don't even know me so I don't appreciate the personal attack.

Secondly I normally concern myself with the law, whilst it's legal, I'm allowed to do it.

Thirdly, my point was I couldn't see the difference with talking on hands free an talking to a passenger, neither or your links contained any comparison between the two.

Lastly, again who are you to tell me to turn my phone off, your tone leaves a lot to be desired.

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sim1515 [141 posts] 3 years ago
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I've had a quick look an there are people that argue that a passenger is safer as they can point out hazards and there doesn't seem to be much actual proof out there. There is a study by Michigan Uni that studied 36 drivers over 80,000 miles which found that divers were as distracted by passengers as when they were on a phone.

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John_the_Monkey [436 posts] 3 years ago
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sim1515 wrote:

That's purely my opinion, I can't see a noticeable difference in talking on my Bluetooth hands free to my wife or talking to her if she was in the car, how are the two actually different (apart from her not being there)?

The researchers suggest that the key is in the cognitive workload involved - with a passenger in the car, that's lessened. Another theory suggests that the passenger in the vehicle reacts to road traffic conditions too, which draws the driver's attention to them, iirc. The difference *is* that she's not there.

You're welcome to your opinion, of course, but the research done so far on the subject doesn't back it up. The current guidance to UK drivers advises you not to do what you're doing too.

Quote:

There are also quite a few other things likely to distract you from the road, like lighting a cigarette, tuning your radio, talking to passengers but they're acceptable.

None are as distracting as holding a conversation with someone who isn't present, as far as I know. There's been comparative research on "hands free" conversation vs conversation with someone in the car - I can't remember any specific comparison with your other examples.

Again, the current Highway Code;

"148
Safe driving and riding needs concentration. Avoid distractions when driving or riding such as;

* loud music (this may mask other sounds)
* trying to read maps
* inserting a cassette or CD or tuning a radio
* arguing with your passengers or other road users
* eating and drinking
* smoking"

So your examples are addressed as things drivers shouldn't be doing either, for the most part.

I don't think it's in the current version, but I'm sure I read some guidance (possibly in an old edition of "Roadcraft") advising drivers not to light a pipe while driving  1

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John_the_Monkey [436 posts] 3 years ago
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sim1515 wrote:

I've had a quick look an there are people that argue that a passenger is safer as they can point out hazards and there doesn't seem to be much actual proof out there. There is a study by Michigan Uni that studied 36 drivers over 80,000 miles which found that divers were as distracted by passengers as when they were on a phone.

So we shouldn't be doing either, in that case?

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mattheww385 [46 posts] 3 years ago
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Shocked by the lack of performance from SWP here, given they police the most heavily populated part of Wales.

Then again, perhaps Dyfed Powys have nothing to do, that's a hell of a lot of empty space to Police.

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sim1515 [141 posts] 3 years ago
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That's the thing, it doesn't seem that the research done on the comparisons hasn't yielded any actual evidence, there are opinions on the cognitive loads of talking to someone who isn't there but no evidence as yet.

And for you to say that none of those is as distracting is obviously your opinion (which you're entitled to) but if there are no studies, it can't be based on fact. And I'm not saying that they are all equal, I was giving other examples of distractions which are accepted, I personally find listening to extremely loud music is more distracting than a phone call but that's accepted (again my opinion).

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sim1515 [141 posts] 3 years ago
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John_the_Monkey wrote:
sim1515 wrote:

I've had a quick look an there are people that argue that a passenger is safer as they can point out hazards and there doesn't seem to be much actual proof out there. There is a study by Michigan Uni that studied 36 drivers over 80,000 miles which found that divers were as distracted by passengers as when they were on a phone.

So we shouldn't be doing either, in that case?

True, also given all my other given distractions, maybe we should jut drive everywhere in silence, although some people will probably find that distracting too  3

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