Driving is the most dangerous everyday activity that most people do. Researches show that of those people, who use the road for work purposes, 20 are killed and 250 are seriously injured in crashes every week. We mean those people who use mobile phones while driving. Of course, not all of them speak over the phone for work purposes, they also call to their relatives, friends or acquaintance and consider this quite natural to make or receive several calls at the wheel. However, these calls lead to serious accidents on the road every day and become one of the most frequent reasons of drivers’ death. The problem turned to be so burning that from 1 December 2003, it became illegal to drive while using a mobile phone.
Anyone caught using a mobile phone while driving faces a minimum of $50 fine. The law says that talking, sending or receiving text messages, playing games or taking photos are illegal when using a hand-held phone. When your vehicle is stopped but not parked, for instance when you are waiting at traffic lights, it is also forbidden to perform these activities.
It’s now almost four years since legislation has been introduced, but it seems that many people don’t understand the law, and are still putting themselves at risk.
What is the Law?
The law forbids to operate a hand held phone or similar device when driving a car. If you need to hold the device to make or receive a call, or perform an interactive communication function, which includes (but is not limited to) sending and receiving of spoken or written messages, sending or receiving still or moving images and providing access to the internet, then it is classified as a hand-held device.
So, keep in mind, if your mobile phone or device needs to be held for transmitting or receiving any kind of information, then you can’t use it while driving.
However, this does not mean you can’t use your mobile phone at all in the car. As the law states, the device cannot be held, using a hands-free kit allows you to communicate using the mobile phone, while driving, legally. The law simply dedicates that you mustn’t hold the device with you hand but you are allowed to push its buttons when it is in a cradle. The best solution is to use a full car kit (a BlueTooth is one of the easiest ways if your handset supports BlueTooth), but a simply “personal hands free” unit is OK, as long as the handset is not held. You can buy a cheap phone holder, or even use sticky-backed velcro strips to affix the phone to a convenient part of the dashboard.
So, if you are fond of chatting at the wheel, go hand-free. There are several sorts of this device. The simplest are an earpiece and microphone on a lead that plugs into the mobile phone. These often come with new phones, or are available inexpensively. If you can, pay more then get a proper headset with a boom microphone. This unit plugs into the cigar lighter socket and the phone, or has a full hands-free car kit, which uses a loudspeaker and sensitive microphone to allow you to talk to thin air! Some drivers manage to connect the phone to an external antenna, which can improve the signal and so the reliability of calls.
However, a hand-free device doesn’t necessarily make it safe to use a phone while driving. The law forbids using a hands-free phone while driving, if it causes you to lose proper control of your vehicle.
If you are intending to use a hand-free device while driving, observe the following rules:
1. Before start driving make sure that your hand-free phone is set up and working.
2. Keep your conversations short and unemotional.
3. Tell the person you are speaking to that you are at the wheel and may end the call suddenly.
4. Never send text messages (SMS) while driving.
5. End the call if it prevents you from concentration on driving.
Remember, if a hands-free mobile phone prevents you from having proper control of your vehicle, you are guilty of an offence.
Learners and provisional drivers, and riders must not use a mobile phone while driving or riding. This includes phones in the hands-free mode or with loud speaker operating, sending or receiving SMS messages, playing games or any other function on your phone.
Contrary to popular belief, the law does not demand your hand-held mobile phone to be switched off when traveling in a vehicle. Of course you are allowed to use your phone when the car is safely parked.
Using mobile phones in traffic jams
To speak strictly, the law applies when driving. Theoretically, driving does include times when the driver is stopped at traffic lights or driving traffic jams that often occur during a typical journey. But if the engine is witched off, the law no longer applies.
No law can forbid you making a short call on a non-hands free mobile device in particularly bad traffic jams, when drivers often turn off their engines.
However, you’d better not to use the phone at all while in the jam, as if you were charged, you may find it difficult to prove that the engine was switched off when you were making the call. Also keep in mind that you can be charged with an offence if you have stopped your vehicle in not safe place to make a phone call.
What if it is an emergency?
If you are in an emergency situation, the law considers it to be an exception. You are allowed to call 911 in a genuine emergency where it is impractical or unsafe to stop.