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Lord Dixon-Smith: My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for his positive reply. I had expected it because he has been positive on this issue ever since I started pushing on it. I appreciate what the Minister said about additional police powers and the possibility of a government amendment. That is certainly enough to persuade me that I need take the matter no further today, but I may need to put this amendment down as a marker in order to ensure that the government amendment comes forward at Third Reading. For now, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Faulkner of Worcester moved Amendment No. 23:

(1) The Road Vehicles (Construction and Use) Regulations 1986 (S.I. 1986/1078) are amended as follows.
(2) After Regulation 109 there is inserted—
110 No person shall drive, or cause or permit to be driven, a motor vehicle on a road, if the driver is using a hand-held mobile telephone or similar device.""

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I tabled Amendment No. 23 in Grand Committee but did not move because we ran out of time. I have therefore brought it forward today. The amendment seeks to ban the use of hand-held mobile phones by drivers. Mobile phones are an essential part of life for many people. They enable us to maintain contact with family, friends and work colleagues and, very importantly, to summon help if we are in trouble. However, they have also created a significant risk because enormous numbers of drivers use mobile

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phones when driving. Surveys consistently show that around one-third of drivers admit to using a phone while driving. Those drivers with the highest accident risk are the ones most likely to do so, increasing their risk even further. Three-quarters of company car drivers and one-half of young drivers use mobiles while driving. Observation studies found that at any one time an astonishing one in 50 drivers is using a mobile phone.

Last year, the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents—I declare an unremunerated interest as its president—published The Risk of Using a Mobile Phone While Driving survey which showed that a substantial body of research conducted in the UK and many other countries concluded that using a hand-held or hands-free mobile phone when driving is a significant distraction causing multiple problems for drivers. These include the fact that they become mentally divorced from what is happening on the road around them; they are unable to maintain proper lane position and a predictable steady speed; they are more likely to tailgate the vehicle in front and their reaction times are much slower; and they are more likely to enter unsafe gaps that are too small. The end result is that drivers who use a mobile phone when driving are up to four times more likely to crash, injuring or killing themselves or other people.

The United Kingdom's accident data do not record whether mobile phones are being used at the time of an accident, but RoSPA has collected press reports of 23 fatal road accidents in the UK where courts have cited the use of a mobile phone. The descriptions make tragic reading. A driver, listening to a message, crossed to the wrong side of the road and hit a van head-on, killing its driver. A driver ran over and killed a child pedestrian while using his phone. A truck driver, distracted when his phone rang, hit and killed a cyclist. A driver, talking on the phone to his boss, hit a parked truck and died in the resulting fire. A driver composing a text message veered into a lay-by and killed a man standing by his car.

What can be done? Regulation 104 of the Road Vehicles (Construction and Use) Regulations 1986 states that the driver must be in proper control of the vehicle. That can be used against drivers who use mobiles, but it is ineffective, as drivers do not understand that they are not in proper control when using a mobile phone. The Highway Code advises drivers that they must not use a hand-held mobile phone when driving. The Government have conducted national publicity campaigns. Police forces have tried to conduct enforcement campaigns, but the message is not getting across to motorists, who persist in vast numbers to use their mobiles on a regular basis when driving.

A specific ban, which the amendment proposes, has massive support in public opinion surveys and in my view is the only answer. The issue was taken up by my distinguished predecessor as the President of RoSPA, whom I am delighted to see in his place as the new Government Deputy Chief Whip. RoSPA has taken the cause on board for many years, and I am delighted to be able to take it on board again. I hope very much

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that the Minister will be able to say that the consultation process that the Government have undertaken has led them irrevocably to the conclusion that a ban on the use of mobile phones by drivers is necessary. I hope that, if they do not accept the amendment today, they will announce a ban very shortly.

Viscount Astor: My Lords, I cannot support the amendment, whatever the principles are that lie behind it, because it raises an issue that the Government have to come forward on themselves rather than relying on the noble Lord, Lord Faulkner of Worcester—however well intended he is. There are a number of issues that the Government have to consider.

My understanding is that the use of mobile phones is legal, and that the police stop people who are driving around with a mobile phone clamped to their ear. I shall be grateful if the Minister will tell us whether that is correct. More evidence is required to show whether every form of hands-free device carries the same danger, as the noble Lord, Lord Faulkner, claims they do. I am not convinced by that, because if one follows that analogy—

Lord Faulkner of Worcester: My Lords, if the noble Viscount, Lord Astor, reads the terms of my amendment, he will see that it does not refer to hands-free mobiles. There is evidence that drivers are distracted when using hands-free as well as the hand-held variety, but the police have advised us that enforcing the hands-free ban is too difficult. The modest proposal contained in the amendment is, therefore, just for the hand-held type.

Viscount Astor: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, as he has answered the question that I was just about to ask. I am not sure that there is any evidence, and I am not sure that his amendment, which says,

    "hand-held mobile telephone or similar device",

necessarily excludes hands-free phones as it is drafted.

There is a debate about whether hands-free telephones are distracting, and there may be circumstances in which they are, just as people may be distracted by changing the radio station for the music that they are listening to in the car. There is also the difficulty over whether we should allow minicab drivers to speak on their radios, for example. Taxis have digital display screens, which drivers need to look at; sometimes they do that when they are stationary, but they may have a quick glance at them as they are going along. Is that something that should happen? Then there are the emergency services, which use radios that are certainly not hands-free.

The issue is important, and we look forward to seeing the government consultation when it is finished. The Government need to take account of all the issues. However well-intentioned the amendment is, it is not for this Bill or for today.

Lord Berkeley: My Lords, I support the amendment. I should have added my name to it but I did not. That was an oversight on my part.

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As a cyclist and pedestrian who has been on the receiving end of the behaviour of many drivers using hand-held mobile phones, I have witnessed first hand the situations that my noble friend described. It is impossible to drive a car, hold a phone, change gear and concentrate on what you are doing. I can give many examples of people who have been hurt and killed as a result of drivers' loss of concentration when using hand-held mobile phones. I hope that my noble friend the Minister will either accept the amendment or agree to bring forward similar amendments very soon.

5.45 p.m.

Viscount Simon: My Lords, the noble Viscount, Lord Astor, raised the hoary question of drivers changing radio station while driving although he did not mention drivers eating sandwiches while driving. However, drivers can choose when to take those actions. One cannot choose the time when one receives a call on a mobile phone, be it hand-held or hands-free. The person on the other end of the phone is not aware of the traffic conditions that the driver faces. Nevertheless the driver's attention is diverted from driving.

Research in Canada and Japan indicates that a driver's attention can be diverted from what is happening around him or her for up to 10 minutes after the conversation is completed. My noble friend Lord Faulkner said that in that situation a driver can be mentally divorced from what is happening around him.

Some time ago I was on traffic patrol with others in a marked police vehicle. I was travelling somewhat slowly round a roundabout. Someone joined the roundabout in front of me, forcing us to slow down. That person was speaking into a mobile phone and had no conception that we were there. We stopped the driver and she admitted that she had no idea that we were there. That is a perfect example of what happens in such situations.

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