Safety fears over mobile use by car drivers

Researchers have found that talking on the phone when driving significantly reduces their reaction times
Written by Graeme Wearden, Contributor on

Latest research has found that using a mobile phone at the wheel has a significant impact on a car driver's concentration levels and reaction times.

Scientists at the University of Utah found that carrying out a telephone conversation while driving resulted in motorists driving less carefully than normal. The research found that using a mobile was more distracting than listening to music or a book on tape. This was the case even if the driver was using a hands-free mobile set -- suggesting that the distraction is caused by a driver having to concentrate on the phone conversation.

The research is likely to encourage those who are campaigning for a ban on mobile phone by car drivers. The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) claimed last month at least 16 people have died in accidents where a motorist was using a mobile phone when driving. It has written to the government urging it to bring in laws banning the use of both handheld and hands-free kit while driving.

RoSPA cited the death of Rebekka Hurd, an 11-year old girl who died five years ago after being struck by a car driven by a man using a mobile -- he was later fined £200 and given three penalty points on his licence. Although police officers could charge someone for "driving without due care and attention" for using a mobile on the move, RoSPA believe that specific laws would help to stamp out the practice.

In the University of Utah study, drivers carried out a series of different tasks while driving, including using a mobile phone, changing radio stations and listening to a recording of a book being read. The researchers found that drivers took considerably longer to react when they had to brake or stop.

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