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Don't Dial And Drive
Deutsche Welle
March 25, 2002

Dialing while driving can be deadly

Motorists are finding it easier to drive drunk than when using a mobile phone, a recent study says.

Motorists talking on mobile phones while driving are more dangerous than those over the legal drink-driving limit, a recent report said.

Tests conducted by the Transport Research Laboratory in Berkshire, England, showed that drivers’ reactions were a third slower when talking on a hand-held mobile phone than under the influence of alchohol.

According to the survey, commissioned by insurer Direct Line, it took mobile phone users half a second longer than normal, and one third of a second longer than after drinking, to react. Drivers were less able to maintain constant speed and found it more difficult to keep a safe distance from the car in front.

The results coincides with a report released last year by the University of Bremen, Germany, which showed that the number of drivers cutting off corners and disregarding street signs doubled when motorists used mobile phones, instead of hands-free phones.

The Direct Line study is likely to add credence to calls for people to be banned from using mobile phones whilst driving.

Strictly forbidden 
Since February 2001, using hand-held mobile phones while driving in Germany is strictly forbidden. Hands-free mobile phones are still allowed. However, according to Dominic Burch, road safety campaign manager at Direct Line, tests showed that hands-free mobile phones were also a considerable distraction.

In fact, participants in the Direct Line study stated that they found it easier to drive drunk than when using a mobile phone, whether hand-held or hands-free.

Direct Line commissioned the survey after it found out that four out of ten drivers, equivalent to around ten million UK motorists, admitted to using a mobile-phone behind the wheel.

According to Dominic Burch, "most people accept that talking on a mobile phone while driving is distracting, however, many drivers don’t appreciate how dangerous it is."

Janet Anderson, British MP, is currently trying to push a bill through which would ban the use of hand-held mobile phones while driving in the UK. The commissioners of the study are hoping that the it will lend support to calls for a total ban in Britain.

But according to Peter Macke from Germany’s Transport Court, the number of those  driving "without consideration" - using mobile phones – had hardly decreased since the new law forbidding hand-held phones while driving was passed in Germany last year.

However, it is the fact that drivers tend to regard driving and dialling "without consideration" that has led to calls for a total ban in Britain. Whereas drunk driving is clearly established as a danger in the eyes of drivers, speaking on the phone while behind the wheel is not.

"We were surprised to discover that talking on a mobile phone is actually more dangerous than being drunk behind the wheel", Dominic Burch said. "In effect, this means that 10 million drivers (in Britain) are partaking in a driving activity that is potentially more dangerous than being drunk".

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