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Police to crack down on mobile-using drivers this week

Brake anti-distraction campaign calls for hand-free ban too

The distraction of talking and texting while driving has been implicated in many recent cyclist casualties. Road safety charity Brake is this week calling on drivers to turn off their phones as police launch a week-long crackdown.

Brake says that 575,000 drivers have points for using a mobile while driving or being otherwise distracted. Almost a quarter of road deaths were caused by motorists who were distracted while driving, including 17 deaths directly attributable to drivers talking on the phone while driving and 548 casualties.

Tragic examples include the death of Anthony Hilson, who was hit from behind on September 9th 2012 when he was  by Victoria McClure on the A4 Bath Road in Twyford, Berkshire.

Ms McClure was adjusting her satnav and the prosecution estimated Mr Hilson would have been in her field of view for at least 18 seconds before the collision.

On November 7 2011, Hope Fennell was crushed to death by a lorry driven by Darren Foster  as she rode her bike across a pedestrian crossing on Kings Heath High Street in Birmingham.

Foster had been exchanging text messages with his girlfriend while driving round the city and failed to see Hope as she rode out into the road.

As the girl lay dying under his vehicle, Foster attempted to delete the messages in an attempt to cover up.

It’s not just handling devices that causes distractions. Brake says that talking on hands-free is just as risky as hand-held and cites research by distraction expert Dr Amy Guo at Newcastle University that shows the harder you have to concentrate on a task, such as dealing with work-related calls, the slower your reactions.

Police across the UK are this week implmenting a campaign against using a mobile while driving. The offence carries a £100 fine and three licence points for a first offence.

Association of Chief Police Officers head of roads policing, Chief Constable Suzette Davenport said: "As technology has advanced, we've seen a change in the behaviour of some drivers who are allowing themselves to become distracted and putting themselves and others at risk.

Julie Townsend, Brake’s deputy chief executive said: "We're living in an age when being constantly connected is the norm; more and more of us have smartphones, and find it hard to switch off, even for a minute. Many people who wouldn't dream of drink-driving are succumbing to using their phone and other distractions while driving.

“We're calling on UK drivers to tune into road safety: turn off your phone or put it in the boot, and never try to multi-task at the wheel. We're also appealing to everyone to refuse to chat to someone on the phone who's driving, to help them arrive safely.”

Brake has also called for the use of hand-free devices to be banned, but the Department for Transport says it has no plans to ban hands-free systems.

A DfT spokesman told The Times: “Road safety is a top priority and the Government is determined that police have the powers they need to tackle any form of dangerous driving, including anyone using a mobile phone at the wheel.

“Police can stop and arrest any driver if they believe they are not in charge of their vehicle, and this includes if the driver is using a hands-free mobile device.”

Acknowledged by the Telegraph as a leading cycling journalist, John Stevenson has been writing about bikes and cycling for over 30 years since discovering that people were mug enough to pay him for it rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work.

He was heavily involved in the mountain bike boom of the late 1980s as a racer, team manager and race promoter, and that led to writing for Mountain Biking UK magazine shortly after its inception. He got the gig by phoning up the editor and telling him the magazine was rubbish and he could do better. Rather than telling him to get lost, MBUK editor Tym Manley called John’s bluff and the rest is history.

Since then he has worked on MTB Pro magazine and was editor of Maximum Mountain Bike and Australian Mountain Bike magazines, before switching to the web in 2000 to work for CyclingNews.com. Along with road.cc editor Tony Farelly, John was on the launch team for BikeRadar.com and subsequently became editor in chief of Future Publishing’s group of cycling magazines and websites, including Cycling Plus, MBUK, What Mountain Bike and Procycling.

John has also written for Cyclist magazine, edited the BikeMagic website and was founding editor of TotalWomensCycling.com before handing over to someone far more representative of the site's main audience.

He joined road.cc in 2013 and these days he lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.

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