Technology is distracting

The Government recently decided to 'crack down' on people who use their mobile phone while driving by increasing the maximum fine from £100 to £150. Has this got offenders quaking in their boots? Not in the least from my personal experience the other morning.

By The Newsroom
Saturday, 13 February, 2016, 12:00

Whilst taking the dog for its walk, I stopped at the bottom of The Peth in Wooler, at its junction with South Road, the A697, to chat with a friend. At this point the main road crosses the bridge over the River Till, on effectively an S-bend, with poor visibility.

We were there just before the school crossing lollipop person arrived, in the half light of early morning. In a period of not more than four or five minutes we witnessed seven people using their phones while driving.

The two scariest offenders were an articulated lorry, fully laden, and a large four-wheel-drive vehicle towing a trailer.

It begs the question as to how the Government expects the police to catch offenders. Is it only after an accident when they confiscate the phone and check if it was being used at the time? Surely in such circumstances the charge would be a more serious one of careless or dangerous driving?

Perhaps they could use special vehicles fitted with cameras to photograph offenders and record the vehicle registration number.

I really do not know, and would like to hear what the police feel about the legislation.

I am of an age when I remember cars first having radios, and later radio cassette players. With nowhere specific to fit them, you could see them at the bottom of the centre console, underneath the parcel shelf, under the dashboard on the passenger side, I even recall seeing them in the glove box of Morris Minors.

It did not take long for the motoring press, safety experts, etc, to mount a campaign for them to be fitted high up on the dashboard so that they would take the smallest glance away from the road ahead and pose less of a distraction to the driver.

Modern cars now have “infotainment systems”, with effectively a TV screen on the dashboard. A friend’s son recently bought a new car with this screen mounted low down on the centre console. In fact, when driving the screen is below his left knee. He confirms he cannot see the screen while driving, unless he leans to the left and dips his head down. He also says it has over 80 different settings that he has discovered so far.

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Is he happy with his car? Yes, but he says he would prefer the next model up, which apparently has 4G WiFi. What on earth can someone use this for when driving?

Perhaps this development is why I saw an advert for a gismo which can mount a 10-inch tablet on the dashboard of a car. “What are you doing tonight, son?” “I’m going to watch Fast and Furious 18 while driving up and down the A1.”

What we need are less distractions for drivers, not more.

You would expect the car insurance industry to campaign for such. Not quite. The UK’s largest motor insurer has issued an app for smart phones to enable people to see who is the safest driver. How does it work? The phone is mounted on the dashboard of the car. Of course no one would ever look at the phone while driving to see how they were doing, would they?

Here is an interesting suggestion for the car industry. Why not produce cars and fit them retrospectively with a device which disables phones while the engine is switched on? This would solve the problem at a stroke.

Or have we produced a generation who cannot possibly live without their phone, even while driving, I wonder?

Mel Shaw