Should we ban hands-free devices in cars?

First it was motorists using mobile phones, now the road safety lobby wants to ban hands-free devices in vehicles. Really? Sean O'Grady has something to say about that

I would be less than honest if I did not declare at the outset that I have two "convictions" for using a mobile phone while at the wheel. Both, I felt, were a bit harsh.

The first was when I was driving a new Range Rover (not mine) at no great speed, in the early days of the ban on the practice, when it was just a fixed penalty notice with no points applied to one's licence. I had the distinct impression that the police who stopped me thought I was an arrogant rich bastard who deserved to be punished precisely on those grounds: "in possession of a posh motor in a built-up area", you might say. Just a hunch.

The second time, I was actually stationary, stopped in a back street at a junction in the wee small hours of the morning. That time I was the subject of the attentions of a "rookie", obviously out under the supervision of a more senior cop. The old boy tried (and failed) to steer his junior colleague into letting me off with a caution. Instead, I got three points plus a £60 fine. Of course the real cost, and lasting resentment, derives from the loading of the points put on one's car insurance, for about five years.

I don't happen to agree with the team at Carnegie Mellon University and London School of Economics, which has found "no link" between use of phones and accident figures; but neither do I feel emotionally engaged enough to support the law as it stands, in principle or practice. Indeed, I'm inclined to give it two fingers.

My point is this; I might recognise the danger using a phone on the move poses for me and other road users, but I have been alienated from the law in exactly the same sort of way that "youths" are if they get stopped for smoking a spliff. The law has not deterred me very much, nor convinced me of the error of my ways, and I should think I am far from alone in that.

Unlike drink-driving, say, or speeding, the introduction of greater surveillance and tougher penalties has not been accompanied by a decisive victory in the debate. The authorities have not so much not yet won the argument as not even engaged in it.

In an extreme way, we saw what happened in 2011 when a section of society decided that The Law was not working for them but against them. The riots were shocking and horrible, and I wouldn't condone them. But for every class and for every interest group there has to be a broad consent about how laws are made and how laws are enforced for the entire process to be practicable. I do not envisage crowds of paunchy-middle men rampaging (ie, waddling) through city centres torching police stations and taking the opportunity of general lawlessness to loot the nearest Porsche and Alfa Romeo showrooms (although, thinking about it, it doesn't sound such a bad idea). I am just saying that policing "by consent" has to apply to everyone.

So now, absurdly, the road-safety lobby wishes to go even further and ban "hands-free" devices as well. Yet modern cars have the most unobtrusive, often voice-activated technology that makes speaking on a phone as natural as speaking to a front-seat passenger. Why not ban passengers, especially troublesome, noisy kids in the back? Messing about with the radio is also a hazard. Adjusting the heating another one. Even though those things make it less likely that you'll feel drowsy at the wheel. No matter; I have no doubt that in due course groups such as Brake will seek a ban on those as well.

There is a sense here that the road-safety lobby will never be satisfied until driving car is rendered so puritanically boring and uncomfortable that you would rather take a bus.

Well, not me. Nothing will persuade me that pressing a couple of buttons on a steering wheel to make a call is going to kill anyone. An honest view.

News
peopleFrankie Boyle responds to referendum result in characteristically offensive style
Sport
Lewis Hamilton will start the Singapore Grand Prix from pole, with Nico Rosberg second and Daniel Ricciardo third
F1... for floodlit Singapore Grand Prix
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvHe is only remaining member of original cast
Arts and Entertainment
tvHighs and lows of the cast's careers since 2004
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Sport
Fans hold up a scarf at West Ham vs Liverpool
footballAfter Arsenal's clear victory, focus turns to West Ham vs Liverpool
New Articles
i100... she's just started school
News
news
New Articles
i100
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
life
Arts and Entertainment
musicBiographer Hunter Davies has collected nearly a hundred original manuscripts
Sport
football
New Articles
i100... despite rising prices
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Gadgets & Tech

    Graduate BI Consultant (Business Intelligence) - London

    £24000 - £30000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Graduate BI Consultant (B...

    Service Delivery Manager (Product Manager, Test and Deployment)

    £40000 - £55000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Service Delivery Manager (Product Ma...

    Technical Product Marketing Specialist - London - £70,000

    £50000 - £70000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Cloud Product and Solutions Marketin...

    Trainee Helpdesk Analyst / 1st Line Application Support Analyst

    £18000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and growing IT Consultancy fir...

    Day In a Page

    Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

    Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

    Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
    Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

    Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

    The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
    The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

    Scrambled eggs and LSD

    Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
    'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

    'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

    Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
    Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

    New leading ladies of dance fight back

    How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam