Drivers warned about phones ban

SUFFOLK drivers are again being warned about tough new laws banning mobile phones.From December 1, it will be an offence to hold a mobile phone whilst driving and those caught will be forced to pay up – with fines reaching up to £1,000.

SUFFOLK drivers are again being warned about tough new laws banning mobile phones.

From December 1, it will be an offence to hold a mobile phone whilst driving and those caught will be forced to pay up – with fines reaching up to £1,000.

Research suggests drivers are four times more likely to have an accident if they drive while using a phone.

And, although official statistics do not record the causes of road accidents, there were 19 cases reported between 1988 and 2001 where a death could be attributed to a driver using a mobile.

Although an initial proposal to ban all in-car phone use was ruled too hard to regulate, those using hands free kits still risk prosecution for failing to be in control of their vehicle.

County road safety officer, Mike Motteram said: "The level of concentration is the issue, when talking drivers tend to focus on middle distance and lack concentration, it doesn't matter whether they are holding the phone or not.

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"Of course it will be a matter of self enforcement, we need to educate people and make them realise that they are dangerous.

"We are focusing specifically on business as we feel that this is a very important group to inform.

"Business calls can be mundane, but they can also be very serious and need concentration – drivers need their full attention on the road."

But the new law has faced criticism over its enforcement in businesses. Legal experts have discovered a discrepancy in the law which makes it unclear who will foot the bill if employees are caught using their phones.

If companies provide their workers with phones they may have to pay the fines unless they expressly forbid employees from using the it at the wheel.

But if the phone is not owned by the company and the employee is on company business, it is unclear who will be held responsible.

N What do you think? Write in to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or email eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk or visit the forum at www.eveningstar.co.uk

nThe new offence will relate to hand-held mobile phones only. Rather than trying to define exactly what types of device are covered, the law will ban the actual activity of using them.

nThe offence will apply not only to drivers speaking or listening to a phone call, but also using mobile internet services and sending or receiving text messages or other images, provided the device is held in the driver's hand.

NDrivers will face a fixed penalty of £30, or a fine on conviction of up to £1,000, plus three penalty points.

Implications for employers

nThe government has confirmed the law will make it an offence for anyone "causing or permitting" someone to use a hand-held mobile phone or similar device while driving.

nAn employer could be liable if they expect employees to use hand-held phones while driving. But the government has indicated employers would not be held liable just because they supplied a phone or because they called an employee who was driving.

nProvided the equipment does not entail the individual holding it at any point, it will be exempt from the new measures.

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