This might well cost lives!
The proposition currently being floated in the media to totally ban all mobile phone use by the driver of a vehicle – even hands free – is flawed in its conception.
For a start, we have just witnessed the new text & phone alert system brilliantly warning people threatened by bushfires around Perth with the result that no lives were lost – even though many homes were. Particularly in the bush, drivers would not get the warning if they ‘responsibly’ ignored their phone trying to alert them. Similarly, the phone-included Global Positioning System (GPS) function these days can prevent people getting hopelessly lost in the outback or not being able to avoid a threat. They also make accurate compliance with speed limits (now-a-days registered in the GPS database) easier.
The proposition is founded on conclusions drawn from statistics that do not adequately discriminate between integrated hands-free systems and solutions that compromise using earpieces that one must touch or adjust. Rather than simply banning mobile phone use in a car, far better would be to mandate integrated mobile connections with full voice-actuated control in every new car. The powers that be could also give a discount on the registration of older cars that had such kit retro-fitted.
To my mind, especially with male drivers who can not multi-task as well, a far greater risk than interacting with a proper hands-free mobile phone, is participating in a conversation with a passenger that wants thoughtful answers or even a debate right there and then – much more distracting than passively listening to a radio program or participating in a phone chat requiring a mere “ah ha” now and then … and you can easily terminate a phone call!
Advertising programs in the media and school education programs directed at safer & more thoughtful driving technique really should address the issue of driver distraction in a comprehensive way – and not only for drivers but also to make passengers aware that they put their own safety at increased risk with distracting conversation that demands thoughtful response.