Mobile phoning

HAVE you used a hand-held mobile phone while driving? C’mon, we know that if you drive and possess a mobile phone you will have used it while driving. We know that because we know that a ringing mobile phone is irresistible.

Yes, I have used a mobile phone while driving. How often? Well, not to put too fine a point on it, a guesstimate only, err, several hundred times. But only short conversations. Usually. And only ever answered calls. Almost always. ‘‘Hello. What’s wrong? At Lambton. About 10 minutes. Sliced or unsliced? Bye.’’ If it’s to be a longer conversation I’ll pull over, although I admit that pulling over is a recent practice. I’ll pull over for a longer call not because I worry about the danger caused by using the phone while driving but because I worry about being booked for using the phone.

And, anyway, I suspect that the risks posed by looking out for coppers while using the phone are greater than those incurred merely using the phone, but the end result is the same.

Do I text while driving?

Well, I have done. I suppose. Just to send ‘OK’ or ‘on way’. Certainly no longer exchanges. Always, of course, I’ll look at a message received, and to do that I merely lift the phone closer to my eyes. My texting has been while I’ve been stopped at traffic lights, not that this makes it legal. NSW Road Rules bar the hand-held use of a phone for any purpose while driving or even stopped while driving, although that does not apply if the vehicle is parked. Learner or P1 drivers are not permitted to use a hands-free phone, either, while driving. Penalty for all is $265 and three demerit points, and $353 and four points if the offence occurs in a school zone.

Road-safety groups and police in some states have been campaigning for a ban on hands-free use of a phone while driving but politicians have been reluctant, and I can't see why speaking to someone via a hands-free phone is any more dangerous than talking to another person in the car!

It is clear to everyone that texting while driving is dangerous, and it is likely that driving with just one hand while holding a phone to the ear increases the risk of an accident for at least that reason. But I often drive with just one hand, and so do you. The other hand may be operating the radio or hunting around in the console or scratching an ear or resting on the arm support. Agreed, I have two hands available to drive at all times (except if I’m using a phone).

I suspect the best way of reducing hand-held use of phones while driving, which seems to me to be the most common driving offence, is to make hands-free car kits compulsory.

Has using a phone while driving been given an unfair rap? Should hands-free kits be compulsory?

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