Thoughts on politics and life from a liberal perspective

Friday, 11 December 2009

Mobile phones and cars

I was not particularly surprised to read earlier today that the number of people using hand-held mobile phones in cars is now higher than it was two years ago before the new legal penalties for doing this came into effect.

I always thought the way that this law was configured was odd. It is illegal to use a hand-held mobile phone whilst driving. It is however legal to use one as long as you have a hands-free kit. However there is no evidence that using a hands-free kit is any safer than using a hand-held phone. It's the fact that you are making the call at all that is the distraction.

So the first problem with the law is that it seems a bit arbitrary.

Secondly, the type of hands-free kit that you can use is quite specific. I have an iPhone which comes with a pair of headphones with a control on them that allows me to take calls, speak into the control (which is hanging on the wire just by my mouth when I have the earphones in) and I can hear the call through the earphones. To all intents and purposes it is a hands-free kit. However because it is in physical contact with the phone, if I use this whilst driving then I am technically in contravention of the law. If I had some sort of bluetooth or other wireless earpiece then this would be OK though. However that, or other "proper" hands-free kits are more expensive and may involve cumbersome installation as well for the car. The headphones I referred to came with my iPhone for free.

So the second problem with the law is that it appears for no good reason designed to make money for the manufacturers and vendors of the specific, more expensive hands-free kits.

I think it is these two factors that bring the law into disrepute and have brought us to this situation. Like numerous laws brought in by this government it was ill thought through and there are at least two factors that allow the perception of it being arbitrary and/or unfair.

Perhaps this is why people like the Leader of the House of Commons and Deputy Leader of the Labour Party Harriet Harman felt free to disregard it.


Anonymous said...

"It's the fact that you are making the call at all that is the distraction."
In which case why are you using your mobile in your car at all - even with a 'hands-free kit' - irrespective of whether the kit complies with the law or not?

And on distractions I think the other problem which needs looking at is the driver paying more attention to their satnav than to the possibility of a child running into the road in front of the car.

dazmando said...

I heard an MP on the BBC radio 5 live today who said there was no excuse because most phones come with a hands free kit. But this is the small head phones that come free. As you know its not legal, therefore he was informing the public of the wrong info. So even he doesn't know the law, wish I could remember who it was,

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MAtt said...

As I recall, the original intention was to ban completely, but handsfree kit manufacturers/sellers lobbied rather hard against all of there customers equipment being outlawed, and got the exemption.