As laws against driving with cell phones continue to go on the books around the world, Britain has upped the ante:
Drivers caught using a hand-held mobile or who do not have control of their vehicle while using a hands-free kit will be hit with a fine of 60 pounds.
They will also get three penalty points on their licence.
“Research shows that talking on a mobile phone while driving affects your concentration and ability to react to dangerous situations,” said Transport Secretary Douglas Alexander.
The headline of the story implies that the biggest news is the bigger fine, but to me, the second part of the law is more important. It’s not just driving with a handheld that will get you the penalty, but also driving with a hands-free kit. As we’ve reported on CogDaily before:
Researchers found no difference between people who used a handheld or hands-free cell phone, and no difference between radio/audiobook listeners and the driving-only condition. However, the cell-phone talkers missed more than twice as many red lights as the other participants
So there’s no difference in driving impairment between using a handheld phone compared to the hands-free kit. In a second test, Strayer and Johnson found that the difficulty of the conversation, not the type of phone, had a more important impact on driving errors.
The British law allows police to impose a significant fine for using a hands-free kit if they don’t have control over their vehicle, which, arguably, would be the only way to enforce such a law short of banning hands-free kits entirely.
A question for legal experts out there: If a driver is talking on the phone — hands-free or not — and an accident occurs, is that admissible as evidence that the driver caused the accident? It certainly appears that it should be.