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An issue worth talking about

By Ashbourne News Telegraph  |  Posted: December 04, 2013

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THE other day I was reading an article about a road safety charity calling for a complete ban on mobile phone use in cars. My first thought was: "I thought that came in years ago", and then I read on.

What they're trying to stop is the use of hands free devices in cars. And I genuinely can't see the point in that. I can't see how it's any more dangerous to talk to a loudspeaker and microphone than it is to talk to a passenger.

There's an argument over the added distraction of taking your eyes off the road and your hands off the wheel to select the contact you want to call - but in modern cars that's no more distracting or complicated than tuning in to a radio station. What's next? Will we be banned from listening to Jeremy Vine?

I can't remember the last time I drove a modern car that didn't have a Bluetooth telephone system built in. Why should we Brits be told we can't use a facility in our car that ultimately we've paid to have included?

Let's face it, driving is down-time. A car journey can be an ideal time to hold a conversation with someone and what difference does it make whether they're in the same tin box, or whether they're on the end of a telephone. Businessmen and women can use this dead time to make or take a call that would otherwise swallow up half an hour of office time.

I'll make a very important point at this stage that I absolutely deplore the thought of someone holding a phone to their ear while driving or, even worse, texting, tweeting or Facebooking while at the wheel. Anyone caught doing that should have their arm cut off and fed to a sea lion.

But I really don't see a problem with holding a conversation over a hands free kit.

Speaking in to a microphone while at the wheel is fast becoming part of modern motoring. Many new cars come with voice control systems that are activated at the touch of a steering-wheel button. Anyone who's ever tried to use one of these systems will testify that they're probably far more dangerous and distracting than chatting on the blower.

The problem is these systems generally don't work. If we're going to ban talking in cars then voice control systems should be higher on the hit list.

Anyone who's found themselves reaching forward to yell in to the microphone that you want to go to Huddersfield when the car seems adamant you're telling it 'Chippenham' will take this point on board.

How is that any more distracting than calling your wife to discuss whether dinner this evening will be fish pie or spaghetti Bolognese?

Ultimately, whether it's banned or not, the motorist is on a losing streak as soon as they press the 'accept call' button.

If we're involved in an accident in this day and age the first thing a police officer will do is grab your phone and look at your call history. If they see you were on the phone at the time of the smash they're throw the book at you - regardless of how strongly you argue the fact it was a hands free conversation.

Whereas, if the accident was caused because you'd been engaged in a heart-to-heart with the person sitting behind you, they'd never know and you might just escape having the finger of blame pointing in your direction.

Rather than ban hands free conversations, we should be ensuring they are the only way a telephone conversation can be made.

Idiots - and there are many of them - will always pick up the phone when it rings but even the stupidest person would probably rather press a button on the steering wheel and start chatting rather than risk a fine.

We live in a world where we all have mobile telephones and we all like to stay in touch wherever we are. Rather than forcing them not to answer the phone in the first place - which we all know they will - is it not a better idea to ensure they've still got full control of their car when they do?

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