Steane Klose | Jan 15, 2009

With America's National Safety Council (NSC) calling for an all-out ban on mobile phone usage while driving, debate has continued amongst us Aussies as to whether such a ban should go ahead on our shores. NSC studies show that hands-free phone usage is no safer than using your phone as per usual. RACV General Manager Brian Negus is not entirely convinced however.

Mr Negus cited RACV's own studies in his response but noted that mobile phone usage of any form while driving is definitely a distraction:

"the difference between hand-held and hands-free is still a matter for conjecture".

NSC president Janet Froetscher painted a different picture:

"There is a huge misperception with the public that it's OK if they are using a hands-free phone. It's the same challenge we had with seatbelts and drunk-driving — we've got to get people thinking the same way about cell phones."

There's no doubt that conducting almost any activity while driving will result in some form of distraction but the matter at hand is the differing risk between normal usage and hands-free usage.

Mr Negus noted that the Government was aware of the issue and had reacted by banning learner drivers and P1 probationary drivers from any mobile phone usage when driving. He went on to explain that a study of under-25s had found that over 30 percent had witnessed drivers sending text messages and talking on mobile phones.

Traffic Accident Commission manager of road safety, Samantha Cockfield, joined Negus in explaining that drivers should be wary of any distractions while at the wheel.

"No phone call is so important that it cannot wait a few minutes until you pull over,"

So what do you think? While few could argue that mobile phone usage is a distraction, the real question here is if we should ban all mobile phone usage including hands-free operation? It might not be as clear cut as you think, have your say below.

[Source: The Age]

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