Lord Davies is the Deputy President of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (Rospa) which has been campaigning to stop drivers from using phones. He says he has taken the action in the interest of road safety and saving lives. "Rospa knows of at least six deaths on Britain's roads where the use of a mobile phone has been implicated, but there could be many more," Lord Davies said.
The Bill is supported by Robert Hammond, whose daughter was killed when a lorry driver using a mobile phone crashed into her. Mr Hammond said yesterday: "I am not against mobile phones but if they are misused they can be as dangerous as a bullet."
Existing laws did not seem to be deterring drivers from using hand-held mobiles, said Lord Davies, and he believed a specific offence was needed to end confusion. "I am not seeking to ban mobile phones from cars. They can be used safely by passengers, or when the driver has stopped in a suitable place."
Police can use existing legislation to prosecute drivers using mobile phones, usually by charging them with not having proper control of their car. While the Government has resisted a specific law, it incorporated advice into the latest edition of the Highway Code for drivers not to use phones while driving. In addition, it has distributed 500,000 leaflets on mobile phone use in cars.
Even a cursory roadside survey shows that drivers ignore the advice wholesale. In a brief period yesterday, The Independent watched dozens of drivers using mobile phones in one of London's busiest roads. Most astonishing was the driver of a 60ft transporter involved in an animated phone conversation while negotiating a tricky section of a notorious King's Cross one-way system.
A spokeswoman for the Department of Environment, Transport and the Regions said it did not perceive any causal link between accidents and use of mobile phones.
But mobile phones are being cited as a factor in an increasing number of road accidents. "Since I introduced this Bill, I have received letters of support from people whose lives have been ruined by the effects a mobile phone accident has had on their families," said Lord Davies. "It needs to be made clear to drivers that it is wrong."
Past research by Rospa indicates that using a mobile increases the likelihood of having an accident. An NOP survey two years ago showed that 84 per cent of people would like to see drivers banned from using hand-held mobile phones.
The Bill is at the second reading stage and although time may run out this parliamentary session, Rospa hopes it will be made part of the Government's legislative programme.
Killed on the Roads
t Arthur Smith, 79, from Lincolnshire, died of multiple injuries after a woman pulled out to overtake at 70mph and crashed head-on into his car on the A16. The woman, Deborah Haynes, 27, was arranging a date with her boyfriend on her mobile phone. She was jailed for 12 months and banned from driving for two-and- a-half years after admitting causing death by dangerous driving.
t Geoffrey Murray, 54, of Crowthorne, Berkshire, was killed in a head- on on collision at a bend. Peter Mill, 35, was convicted of causing death by dangerous driving while using his mobile phone. He was jailed for six months and banned from driving for two years.
t Carol Pattison, 32, from Draycott, Staffordshire was killed in a six- vehicle pile-up on the M8 near Glasgow. A lorry driver was charged with careless driving and fined pounds 250. He was distracted by his mobile phone.
t Rebecca Hudd, 11, from Pucklechurch, Bristol, was killed when a driver using his mobile phone crashed, hitting her. The driver, David Powell, was fined pounds 250 after admitting careless driving. The girl's mother, Lynda Hudd, asked at the time, "What kind of justice is a pounds 250 fine?" t Kate Alderson, 28, a reporter with The Times, was killed as she covered an air crash. She turned into the path of an oncoming car while using her mobile phone.Reuse content