10 December 2003

One in three drivers intend to flout new laws launched last week banning the use of mobile phones at the wheel. A new RAC poll found that 38 per cent of drivers will still be using their mobiles. Only 31 per cent said they would comply by using hands-free kits.

From 1 December, anyone caught using a hand-held mobile risks a £30 fine. Hands-free devices are legal at present, although the Government may tighten the law in the future.

Andrew Howard, head of road safety at the AA, warned that hands-free kits were just as dangerous. He cited research from the University of Central Florida, which says all your brain capacity is needed to drive on A-roads. Researcher Dr Edward Rinalducci said that while it may be safe to handle a call on a motorway, the same activity in an urban area may be dangerous because the driver's brain has no spare capacity.

The use of handheld or hands-free systems produced similar results. 'It is the level of concentration associated with the phone call that is crucial,' he said. His data suggests a call is twice as distracting as a satellite navigation system and over four times as distracting as listening to the radio.

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