The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) is calling for a ban on the use of mobile phones while driving, claiming that it is responsible for a number of fatalities.
Up to 16 people have died in accidents in the UK where a car driver was using a mobile, according to RoSPA. It has written to the government urging it to bring in specific laws banning the use of both handheld and hands-free kit while driving. The telecoms industry has denied that phone use leads to a greater risk of car accidents, but RoSPA insists that its research proves there is a link.
Two Canadian academics recently claimed that drivers using mobile phones were at least four times more likely to be involved in an accident.
RoSPA made its announcement on the day that a garden was opened in remembrance of a girl who was run down and killed by a car driven by a man using a phone. Rebekka Hurd was aged 11 when she died close to her home, near Bristol, after being hit by the four-wheel drive vehicle. She would be 16 today.
The car driver was fined £250 and given six penalty points.
While there is currently no specific law banning mobile phone use at the wheel, drivers have been fined in the past when police officers have believed they were acting in an unsafe manner. Carphone Warehouse warns that "If you use a handheld mobile phone while driving the police can charge you with 'driving without due care and attention".
By introducing specific legislation, RoSPA claims that drivers will be deterred from taking a risk and using their mobile at the wheel.
Earlier this year a lorry driver was jailed for five years after knocking down and killing a man while typing a text message. He had denied that he had been composing an SMS message at the time of the accident, but was found guilty of what the judge described as a "wickedly dangerous" practice.
New York recently became the first US state to agree to a ban on the use of handheld mobile phones while driving.
Some experts believe this legislation -- which will come into force on 1 December this year -- will act as a boost to hands-free kit makers, and could speed up the introduction of speech recognition. "The public awareness surrounding cell phone use and safety can allow carriers to promote features such as voice-activated dialling and create additional revenue opportunities by charging for these services," said Eugene Signorini, analyst at The Yankee Group.
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