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Sunday, 25 December 2011

Phones and Cars- A good combination?

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Phones and Cars- A good combination?
by stanj028 on 21-12-2011 13:54 - last edited on 21-12-2011 14:04 by tobias_b

Mobiles and Cars- A good combination?

Hi, I'm stanj028 and as mentioned in matt_bird's most recent blog A Brief History of Telecommuncations part 4, I am going to be writing some blog posts regarding cars and the use of telecoms and technology in them. I am an in car technology installer and have current experience of the use and solutions of such technology in vehicles whilst staying safe and within UK law . If you have read matt's blogs you will know the basic history of the mobile phones and the networks behind them, and if you haven't, I recommend that you do as the series is interesting and informative

The History:

Since the late 1950's people started to use what was known as a car phone, and though these were wired into vehicles they were always classed as mobile phones because you could call people whilst on the move. During the 70's and 80's the car phone was the most popular option for executives in their luxury cars as the first generation mobile phones that we carried about were far too exclusive and expensive for most of us. Not to mention requiring many hours in the office gym to allow them to be carried. With the invention of 2G digital technology in the early 1990's there was a boom in sales of the mobile phone as we know it today, which saw them getting cheaper and more affordable, this put the car phone in second place and it is now extremely rare to find a manufacturers standard equipment car phone today. Since a traditional car phone used an antenna that wasn't properly tested to today's UK analogue standards, you could get a fine if you tried to activate one today as they operate on an outdated analogue system which again was not tested to today’s standards, similar to the normal analogue switchover where televisions and other non-digital products are theoretically turned off unless connected digitally, the old system will cease to exist and simply not work anymore in the UK. Since the boom in mobile phones people now need to use them on the move and this caused many issues as it creates a huge distraction, adding risk to every day motoring. Due to the fact a mobile phone is now so quick to put in your pocket and the police service did not traditionally check mobile phones for usage during accidents, there are no concrete figures of how many collisions and deaths were caused by using a mobile phone whilst driving. The rough estimates are quite staggering;

Shocking statistics

1. Your reactions are 30% worse when you are using a mobile phone compared to when you are under the influence of alcohol slightly above the legal limit.
2. You are 4 times more likely to crash if you use a mobile phone whilst driving.
3. Only 45% of drivers agree that usage should be illegal, despite this 75% agree it is extremely dangerous.
4. When texting whilst driving, drivers spend 10% of their time outside the correct lane.
5. It is estimated that whilst reading a text you will have travelled the length of 2 football fields, without looking at the road.
6. Talking on a cell phone causes nearly 25% of car accidents.

There are no current officially recorded statistics about the use of mobile phones whilst driving; this is because it was never specifically recorded, the following statistics mainly relate to 'distracted driving' which covers telephone use.
In the UK around 4500 people are killed and 50,000 are injured per year and the majority of accidents happen whilst distracted. In 2009, 867 fatal crashes were reported to have involved cell phones as the driver distraction (18% of all fatal crashes that year). This is the only year official statistics regarding accidents caused by handheld phones was collected. 4818 fatalities over this year.

This called for desperate measures as there is no doubt that mobile phone use was and still is causing many deaths, so different countries have implemented different laws and regulations as mentioned below. Due to the fact that it it hard to record all mobile usage and accidents due to using a mobile phone, it is extremely hard to find statistics similar to above, if you wish to find general crash or accident data you can use or though you will find there is only data from Northern Ireland which obviously doesn't represent the UK as a whole.

The Law:

Various different laws and practices depending on the part of the world you live, some have banned the use completely and if your phone is found to be active during the time of an accident you would face severe punishment. Some ban the use of them to a degree unless you use an appropriate solution that is far less distracting, and some countries still have not done anything about it.
Seeing as GiffGaff is a UK based network I can safely just talk about UK law and what could happen if you are seen with a phone whilst driving.
In 2003 a UK survey was conducted by the DVLA and 36,000 people responded, the survey included questions about driving habits, previous collisions, and cell phone use, due to the nature of this study the respondents were not identified but the DVLA also had access to police records and cell phone usage demographics to compile their findings. If anyone understands relative risk then there is an average 1.36 relative increased risk of men having a collision whilst using a phone, Whilst women, (not being sexist) are 1.47, so relatively higher than men, presuming therefore that more women use a phone when driving. When thissurvey was re-taken in 2005, this had worryingly increased from 2.83 to a staggering total of 5.13, though this data did not take into account gender differences but used them as a collective. If you don't understand the relative probability, let’s just say that, even the original figures were high. A more recent survey in 2010 conducted by the Department for Transport saw 19% of us admitting to accessing the Internet on a smart phone whilst in control of a vehicle, (or not in control, whichever way you look at it), the most distracting mobile usage of them all, and a high percentage of us are still texting and calling without safe and legal solutions. Statistically a high percentage of people who text and call whilst driving are tradesman or salespeople, (understandably as their vehicle is their office), getting points on their licences is a dread for these people and they are a prime target for my professional services.

Section 26 of the Road Safety Act 2006 was created and said anyone caught Using a phone whilst driving would receive a £30 fine and three points.

As from the 27th February 2007, an amendment of this legislation was put forward that said anyone caught for this offence would get an instant on-the-spot £60 fine and 3 points on their licence, however, at a police officer's discretion or the driver’s insistence, the case maybe answered in court, with the penalty of an instant ban and £2000 fine. So if you are caught its probably best to just admit it straight away and don't try to be smart with them... Future changes are constantly being reviewed and put forward and it would not surprise me if these penalties increase again.
This 2007 amendment was also applied to not having proper control of a vehicle whilst trying to operate a hands free system. Confused? It seems they are saying don't use a hands free or a phone, well let me explain; Full professionally installed hands free solutions were accepted; and these have to meet certain criteria, which are pretty straightforward:
-One Touch: The solutions cannot use more than one finger touch in order to interact, meaning if you have to touch a screen or button more than once it is non
compliant. -Voice Dial: A Hands Free solution must have voice dial if it is to make calls, this means the kit uses voice recognition software, similar to that of Apple's SIRI and simply means you say "call Stan" and then “Stan” is dialled.
ANY hands free solution that does not comply with these simple rules is illegal.
Japan and some US states like Kentucky and New Jersey are the only places where using a phone within a vehicle is completely outlawed, even with hands free or other solutions, the majority of other countries operate an illegal unless with a certified hands free system similar to the UK.
The only exemption to these laws is if you are dialling 999, or 112 for the emergency services.
Random strange fact Under the current legislation, if you use a phone whilst cycling, it has not been unheard of for the same £60 fine to be applied, so be equally careful all you cyclists amongst us.
How can it be proved that you were using a phone?
This is simple, your phone can grass you up, it records when it was being used, as does the service provider (if you are on a contract) and a police officer can confiscate your phone as evidence and the transcript will be seen, showing when it was used, how long a call was, even who you were calling at the time, they can also withdraw a recording.
This empowers them to find you out, however if you deny it, and 3 independent witnesses claim you were on your phone this is still grounds for the legislation to be used against you.

General Notes:
All of the legal information above is extracted and reworded from the Crown and Magistrates services and is correct as of 28th November 2011 when this article was written. Theregulations apply to all motorised vehicles, vans, cars, buses and lorries. As for motor cycles, there are no simple to fit solutions and the options for motorcyclists are limited, you can either rely on vibrations to know when you are being called in order to safely pull over and take a call or simply turn it off and let your voicemail take over where we can all relate to the sound of “Welcome to GiffGaff’s Mailbox....

I am not responsible should legislation be changed or for any consequences that arise if you are caught, however petty and vindictive you may feel this law is, unfortunately you are still guilty. Credit to:
matt_bird for encouraging me to write this article and editing it.
Thank you all for reading

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