186,000 British drivers fined in 2006 for driving while yapping

Some 460 drivers are fined a day in Britain for talking on their cell phones at the wheel. This compares to where I used to live in New Mexico, where 460 state and local representatives are nicked every day for being too plastered to stay in lane. Using mobiles while driving is so commonplace in the UK that police routinely order checks of call records to see if one was underway at the time of an accident.
The figures were released today by the UK Justice Department, according to The Telegraph, and show that despite the fact it's been illegal to use a mobile phone while driving without a hands-free kit since 2003, it's taking a long time for drivers to get used to the idea. Tory Party spokesman for roads Robert Goodwill told The Telegraph: "This is a damning indictment of Labour's failure to clamp down on drivers who repeatedly flout the law... Labour's heavy reliance on speed cameras as a cash cow instead of actually properly policing the roads is being exposed."
Being a Brit in America, I'm somewhat used to in-car cellphone use being either perfectly legal or completely unenforced. To me, it seems no more distracting than talking to the passenger, watching the in-dash DVD player or reading the newspaper on I-279. Damn the nanny state! Police nick 460 a day for using mobiles while driving [The Register]

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13 Responses to 186,000 British drivers fined in 2006 for driving while yapping

  1. Anonymous says:

    Damn the nanny state indeed! Its getting far too ridiculous over here now, I think we need to march much more than we do, before we actually need ‘little brother’.

  2. Anonymous says:

    I saw “driving while Fapping”.
    Seemed more plausible.

  3. razordaze says:

    Aaggh!!! Seriously. Why do we have all these retarded laws about driving while on the phone / drunk / texting / old / young / applying makeup / asian / eating / fapping and who knows what else? We’ve already got the negligent driving laws that address the root issue anyways, but more importantly, where’s the Automated Driver Assist Law of 2010?

    You know, the law that mandates that by 2010 all new cars must be equipped with an autopilot feature (or, alternatively face a 20% higher tax to pay for roads and such) which will keep the car driving at the proper speed to avoid collision while staying in the proper lane, and alert the driver when the GPS indicates a turn or lane chance is necessary? The Jetsons told us all we’d be riding in flying cars by now, but I’d settle for cars that drive themselves. I’d get so much more done! It’d be like riding the bus, but without the annoying wait or smelly proletariats. Add some wi-fi swarming in there, and we’d all get better gas mileage with our file sharing.

    We have the technology. We can do better. Write your representative today!

  4. SeppTB says:

    I often wonder how much better handsfree sets are. Is it the act of holding the phone that is distracting, and not the conversation itself? Driving distracted with two hands or one hand isn’t a lot different.

    What #2 mentions about the up/down speed thing is really annoying, I’ll see cell-phone talkers fly by me doing 85 in a 55, then pull over in front of me and slow down to 50 and glare at me when I pass them after.

    Oh, my other favorite thing I see all the time is the people who don’t use hands free sets, but put their phone on speaker and hold it 2 feet away from their ear instead.

    And yes I’ve used my cell while driving, but only briefly to confirm directions or long enough to let someone know I’ll call them back, not have a conversation my entire drive.

  5. Simon Greenwood says:

    Matthew Walton@9: I agree with this completely. I also add this: what on God’s green Earth is so important that you have to have a phone stuck to your ear while driving? I have the simplest handsfree system in the world, a Kreusel magnetic stud stuck to my dashboard with a metal strip stuck on the back of my phone. My phone, like most modern phones, has a loudspeaker function. Where is the excuse? The answer is that many people are just plain ignorant and stupid, so stupid that we have to legislate not to talk about what was on TV last night while handling half a ton of steel and plastic at 50mph, and so ignorant that they continue to ignore the law as if they’re exempt. These people deserve to die. What is a crime that they end up taking innocent people with them. The people who text while driving scare me even more.

  6. hemidemisemiquaver says:

    Chicago passed a handsfree-only law for drivers a little while ago, and I’ve yet to hear about a single person ticketed for it. Probably because Chicago highways are an unpatrolled no-mans-land.

  7. Matthew Walton says:

    Simon Greenwood@11: you’re absolutely right. I’m sure most of these people aren’t talking about anything that couldn’t wait for an hour or so for them to get home. It’s a bit like drink drivers really – if they’re stupid enough to treat their lives like that, that’s their problem until they kill somebody else.

  8. Matthew Walton says:

    The major reason they banned handheld phones was because of the two hands thing, yes. Most cars are manual, so you need two hands to drive them effectively. You often don’t have time to drop your phone and grab the stick and the wheel in time to avoid something, because accident-causing events tend to happen really really fast.

    That’s assuming people even would drop their phone – that’s not an easy instinct to have if you’ve got a shiny new iPhone.

    Some people have since argued that a hands-free conversation is nearly as bad, because your mind tends to go out somewhere else when the person you’re talking to isn’t in the car – but at least you have both hands, and I can’t see that it can be as bad as that.

    Worth noting that before there was specific legislation for this, the police had the power to prosecute for more general motoring offences of not being in proper control of the vehicle if they thought your phone use was distracting you too much. The government thought it was a better idea to make it an automatic fine though (with three penalty points these days), so now you don’t even have to be driving badly – just being seen on the phone is enough. It’s one of the few new offences they’ve introduced (and they’ve introduced loads) that I actually agree with. Most of the rest of them were quite adequately covered, but this sort of thing needs to be deal with before it gets dangerous, not after.

    Hmm, that got a bit ranty there. I guess most near misses on my bike being with cars driven by drivers with a phone jammed in their ear has biased my opinion somewhat.

    Needless to say, the introduction of that offence has been a boost to the Bluetooth headset manufacturers, and a lot of companies provided subsidies for employees who needed to drive for work to have a proper hands free kit fitted.

  9. stephenjjohnson says:

    As a Brit living in the US I have seen dopes in both countries yacking and giving little attention to other road users. I don’t think it is acceptable behaviour in either country.

    It is worth bearing in mind that the problem is greater in the UK where the majority of vehicles are have a manual (“stick-shift” for USians) grabox and so require both hands.

  10. stephenjjohnson says:

    As a Brit living in the US I have seen dopes in both countries yacking and giving little attention to other road users. I don’t think it is acceptable behaviour in either country.

    It is worth bearing in mind that the problem is greater in the UK where the majority of vehicles are have a manual (“stick-shift” for USians) gearbox and so require both hands.

  11. mralistair says:

    as a london cyclist drivers using their phone is scary.

    i think they are more distracting because the person you are speaking to is not in the same car, shutting up when traffic is busy etc.

    but the biggest distraction is the text messaging and looking up numbers and frankly playing with your phone that keeps drivers eyes off the road.

    given that a handsfree kit is about £15 there isn’t much reason not to use one.. though i wish hire cars had to come with them pre-fitted.

  12. Anonymous says:

    And no more distracting than having a blood alcohol reading well above the legal limit! Multiple studies have equated the two. I never see cars with passengers drifting aimlessly around the lanes, up and down in speed as happens all the time with the cell phone nitwits. I’ll call to make a 15 second statement of my ETA but never engage in an out and out conversation. Can you honestly say you’ve never had a cell phone call and not remembered the drive? I think once you start in a phone conversation the people talking go to a third place, a mental middle ground where the conversation is taking place.

    And unlike a lot of other people, I won’t take my eyes of the road to talk to a passenger, and I will stop mid sentence when anything more pressing shows up in my field of view – like some moron on a cell phone…

  13. Anonymous says:

    That would be 300000 in a metric nation.

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