Get Off Your Phone You Twat

In all the tittle-tattle over the new phone-drive laws Brake has – for once – talked more sense than most in suggesting phone confiscation for offenders.
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In all the tittle-tattle over the new phone-drive laws Brake has – for once – talked more sense than most in suggesting phone confiscation for offenders.

It’s so obvious. If you want to hit those who can’t stop gassing on their mobile phones when driving, the best way is to take away the half of the equation that causes the problem. No phone, no phone-driving.

It’s what safety organisation Brake is suggesting police should have the power to do to phone-driving offenders alongside whopping £1000 fines, rather than just the new £60 fine and three-point licence endorsement now enshrined in law. While the £1000 fines might be a little excessive, whipping the phone away seems like a winner. This society is far too obsessed with its mobile phones and so often pointless extra chat – in or out of the car – so the threat of instant confiscation for bad behaviour on the move might be a bigger deterrent than the odd £60. I would also give police the authority to monkey around with offenders’ settings and delete annoying ring tones for persistent offenders.

From the point of view of public opinion it would be an easy political ‘win’ as almost everyone seems to think phone-driving is a bad thing – even if many don’t practise what they preach – unlike less popular political driving hot potatoes like speed camera proliferation and road pricing.

Phone-drivers even came out as the top ‘pet hate’ of a recent survey of white van men. Almost 50% of van drivers identified hand-held mobile phone use as the most irritating habit on the road, way ahead of being ‘cut up’ (21%), seeing children without seatbelts or child seats (16%), ‘Sunday’ drivers (11%) or speeding (6%). The group surveyed – not exactly known to be paragons of virtue in many of these departments – also felt mobile menaces (41%) were nearly twice as dangerous as drink drivers (21%) when asked what the biggest threat to safety on the roads is today.

“Drivers talking on the phone is still quietly accepted by most passengers in a way that swigging from a bottle of whisky while behind the wheel hasn’t been for some time”

Which is a weird one as – in my experience at least – drivers talking on the phone is still quietly accepted by most passengers in a way that swigging from a bottle of whisky while behind the wheel hasn’t been for some time.

Like many things that were once legal because they weren’t illegal rather than being actively condoned or encouraged, phone-driving is still in that space where people are adjusting to the law and the growing body of evidence that suggests it is more dangerous than drink-driving. Most also know that hands-free phone-driving is not much better as it is the distraction of the distant call rather than the activity of having one hand away form the wheel that is the problem – otherwise they’d have to ban changing CDs, gears and radio channels too (unlikely). But the trouble is, it’s always harder to condemn outright something most of us have done in the recent past or still do on occasion, than something that you have no connection with.

What needs to happen now in conjunction with the new laws is for the social acceptability of phone-driving to change. And the threat of phone confiscation wouldn’t hurt. It’s time for passengers to pipe up and tell their drivers to get off the phone too. And all those who whinge on that they need to keep in touch while on the road should remember that there was a time when we didn’t have the option – when mobiles didn’t exist. Did business still get done then – of course it did.