It may be illegal, but that doesn't stop many drivers using their phones without hands-free kits to make calls or write texts when driving. However, according to The Guardian newspaper, government ministers are proposing the introduction of a 'drive safe' mode that bars most calls and texts to help reduce the number of incidents and injuries linked to driver distraction.
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Ministers, keen to reduce the number of injuries and deaths linked to the use of handheld mobile phones while driving, have called for an informal meeting with mobile phone manufacturers in early 2017 to discuss the addition of such a mode as standard to new devices.
What's being proposed?
Ministers have proposed a 'drive safe' mode, similar to the 'flight safe' mode many of us are already familiar with. While details are sparse as to what exactly this would entail, it's likely to prevent users from making or receiving calls or texts above a certain speed, and limit the use of apps while the mode is enabled. However, it's also likely that the mode will still allow the user to make calls to emergency services, and accept calls from certain, pre-designated numbers.
There is also a proposal to have the mode enable automatically if certain speeds are reached, using the GPS technology in the phone to ascertain the vehicle speed. However, it is hard to imagine how such a mode would not be inadvertently activated when taking a train.
How would it work?
How this would actually work if implemented is yet to be seen. Flight safe mode is activated currently by the user; if drive safe mode is activated in the same way, it would require drivers to make a decision not to use the phone at the start of the journey.
Given that handheld use of phones while driving has been illegal since 2003, and yet usage has increased from 8% to 31% from 2014 (according to the RAC), would an opt-in mode alone be enough to make motorists cease breaking the law?
This isn't the only measure proposed; ministers have already announced that both the fixed penalty fine and fixed penalty notice for using a phone without a hands-free setup will double, with offenders receiving a £200 fine and six penalty points.
“We are determined to crack down on mobile phone use at the wheel," a Department for Transport representative commented to The Guardian. "Our plans to double penalties for this serious crime should act as an incredibly strong deterrent. We will continue to explore what more can be done to tackle this crime.”