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Opinion: Banning phones from the roads is easier said than done

Autocar logo Autocar 13/08/2019 Lawrence Allan
a man driving a car: Opinion: Banning phones from the roads is easier said than done © Autocar Opinion: Banning phones from the roads is easier said than done

While today’s Transport Committee report shines a welcome spotlight on the epidemic of mobile phone use at the wheel, a request from MPs for tougher enforcement is merely talk until actions are set in stone by the government.

That we are still a long way from a solution will be of no comfort to those who have lost loved ones as the result of somebody checking their WhatsApp messages at the wheel. Despite penalties for doing so being increased in 2017, the rate of enforcement has plummeted. It doesn’t take much thought to theorise the problem at hand.

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Years of prioritising camera-based enforcement over recruiting traffic police has blatant consequences, as we’ve commented on here time and time again. No camera in place anywhere in the UK has the ability to accurately spot when a driver isn’t paying attention, driving dangerously (rather than speeding in a binary sense) or under the influence, yet camera installation rises while roads policing numbers have fallen.

The new UK prime minister’s plan to hire 20,000 extra police officers by 2022 is encouraging, but it’s not yet clear whether the priority for this lies on our roads or on our streets.

While carmakers have the technology to monitor driver attention from behind the wheel and warn them, there isn’t yet a method of linking this up with legal enforcement.  More worrying still is that there appears to be a legal grey area with regards to what actually constitutes mobile phone use, as the recent case involving Ramsey Barreto has revealed. 

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It seem there’s still plenty that needs to be clarified before the problem can be properly tackled - and as technology evolves it could become even tougher to enforce.

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