Phones need software to stop drivers becoming distracted, ministers say

A person drives while holding a mobile phone

Mobile phone manufacturers and providers are facing demands from ministers to introduce software that will prevent drivers from being distracted by calls and texts.

An informal meeting in Whitehall is due to take place early in the new year, the Guardian can reveal, in which ministers and officials will tell mobile companies that “drive safe” modes, similar to the airplane mode that has become standard, must be included in basic software ahead of a broader crackdown on illegal mobile phone use on the roads.

In spring 2017, the fixed penalty for using a mobile phone while driving without a hands-free device will double to £200. The fixed penalty notice will increase from three to six points.’); hiddenDoc.close(); })(); {“uid”:2,”hostPeerName”:”https://www.theguardian.com”,”initialGeometry”:”{\”windowCoords_t\”:45,\”windowCoords_r\”:1354,\”windowCoords_b\”:612,\”windowCoords_l\”:1,\”frameCoords_t\”:1689.8125,\”frameCoords_r\”:891,\”frameCoords_b\”:1939.8125,\”frameCoords_l\”:591,\”styleZIndex\”:\”auto\”,\”allowedExpansion_t\”:0,\”allowedExpansion_r\”:0,\”allowedExpansion_b\”:0,\”allowedExpansion_l\”:0,\”xInView\”:0,\”yInView\”:0}”,”permissions”:”{\”expandByOverlay\”:true,\”expandByPush\”:false,\”readCookie\”:false,\”writeCookie\”:false}”,”metadata”:”{\”shared\”:{\”sf_ver\”:\”1-0-5\”,\”ck_on\”:1,\”flash_ver\”:\”24.0.0\”}}”,”reportCreativeGeometry”:false,”isDifferentSourceWindow”:false}” scrolling=”no” marginwidth=”0″ marginheight=”0″ width=”300″ height=”250″ data-is-safeframe=”true” style=”border: 0px; vertical-align: bottom;”>

The transport minister Lord Ahmad said the meeting would “consider safe drive modes, or other practical applications, when a person is driving”.

But road safety campaigners said the government should compel manufacturers to include a drive safe button, if they resisted ministerial pressure.

A separate RAC Foundation-commissioned report published this summer found that without a legal obligation, few companies would include software that limited the use of their equipment, because it would put them at a commercial disadvantage and they felt the onus was on the driver to make sure their use of technology complied with the law.

Steve Gooding, the director of the RAC Foundation, said: “New smartphones and tablets come fresh out of the box loaded with apps and other functions, easily activated through on-screen icons. While flight safe mode comes as standard issue, where is the drive safe equivalent?

“Drivers must carry the personal responsibility for avoiding distraction when they are at the wheel, but telecoms companies surely have an obligation to help them do the right thing, something we’re discussing with the Department for Transport(DfT).

“If industry doesn’t help voluntarily, then maybe we need to consider legislative options.”

Gary Rae, the campaigns director for road safety charity Brake, said: “We’re pleased that Lord Ahmad is looking into this. The use of mobiles behind the wheel is a growing menace.

“Drivers who use phones, either hands-free or handheld, have been found by researchers to be four times more likely to be in a crash resulting in injuries than drivers who were not distracted.

“The technology exists now to shut off mobiles when they’re in a vehicle. It just needs the political will to make this happen. We’re ready to take part in any talks between government, vehicle manufacturers and mobile operators.”

A DfT spokesman said: “We are determined to crack down on mobile phone use at the wheel. Our plans to double penalties for this serious crime should act as an incredibly strong deterrent. We will continue to explore what more can be done to tackle this crime.”

[Source:-tHE gUARDIAN]