Hands-free phone chats at the wheel are as risky as driving while holding your mobile and should be banned, expert warns
MPs were told hands-free phone conversations are no less dangerous while driving. Experts warn that using a hands-free kit is as risky – if not more so – than driving at the UK’s legal alcohol limit.
A hands-free phone conversation while driving is just as dangerous as chatting while holding your phone, MPs were told yesterday.
Experts also said using a hands-free kit is as risky – if not more so – than driving at the legal alcohol limit.
In March 2017, the Government doubled the punishment for using a hand-held phone at the wheel to six penalty points and a £200 fine.
But Dr Shaun Helman, of the Transport Research Laboratory, said it should be extended to the use of hands-free devices.
He told the Commons transport committee that hands-free conversations are just as distracting.
This was echoed by Open University’s Dr Gemma Briggs, who said a conversation with a passenger is less dangerous than talking to someone on a hands-free device.
She explained: ‘This is because you create mental images of where they are, what they’re discussing, what they’re up to, and the mental resources required to create those mental images are also required for accurate perception of that driving situation.’
Mortality on urban roads in Cyprus is close to three times the EU average with around 60 deaths per million inhabitants, the fourth worst record in the bloc, with progress on reducing fatalities having stagnated, a damning report published on Tuesday revealed.
More than 50 per cent of all road deaths on the island occur in urban areas, the authors said. Although Cyprus didn’t rank high in terms of pedestrian and cyclist deaths on city streets, a high level of traffic law violations leads in particular to the deaths of drivers of PTWs (powered two-wheelers). Motorbike and moped riders account for 31 per cent of all fatalities in urban areas.
“Mopeds are widely used on urban roads by young and inexperienced people who are mostly students or delivery service providers. Most of the young moped users ride with a learners’ licence and they lack proper training,” the report said. It also said the use of safety helmets was not as widespread as desired and often when helmets were used, they were not properly strapped. It added that a culture of respect for PTW riders was lacking among other vehicle drivers.
“Notwithstanding the above, an indepth study is required to provide evidence for the actual reasons for the large number of PTW deaths in Cyprus,” the report added, quoting George Morfakis, a Cypriot road safety expert.
The report by the European Transport Safety Council (ETSC), a Brussels-based independent non-profit organisation, said mortality on urban roads was highest in Romania with 105 road users killed per million urban inhabitants – four times the EU average of 26.
Urban road mortality in Croatia was 88 deaths per million, in Serbia 74, in Cyprus 60, in Greece 58 and in Poland 57, it showed. Certain countries, notably Cyprus and the UK, did not have boundary signs to distinguish between urban and rural road sections.
“Progress has stagnated in the UK, Spain and Cyprus,” said the authors. On average, reported road deaths on urban roads decreased by 2.2 per cent annually in the EU since 2010. Recorded serious road traffic injuries were reduced on average by 6 per cent annually in Cyprus but the island was one of the 13 countries where the progress in reducing road deaths on urban roads was slower than the progress on rural roads. Road deaths on urban roads were reduced by 9 per cent more slowly annually than on rural roads in Lithuania, 8 per cent in Norway, and 7 per cent in Cyprus and Estonia.
Tackling the issue must be a key priority for the EU over the next decade, the ETSC said. Pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists – the three most vulnerable road user groups – represent 70 per cent of those killed and seriously injured on urban roads across the bloc.
“As long as people don’t feel safe walking and cycling in our towns and cities, many will be discouraged from using the most sustainable modes of transport. Over the next ten years, we want to see the EU and all European countries investing in urban transport in a way that prioritises the most vulnerable road users. This is not just about safer infrastructure and setting safe speed limits but also better enforcement of speed limits as well as reducing drink driving and distraction,” lead author of the report Dovilė Adminaitė-Fodor said.
Just hours after the third fatal road accident of the weekend, police caught a teenager driving at more than twice the legal limit while he was under the influence of alcohol.
“The deaths of young people seem unable to make us realise the value of life, and that driving is not a game,” police commented in a statement.
Around 1am on Monday, officers found the 18-year-old speeding at 219km/h on the Limassol to Nicosia motorway where the speed limit is 100km/h.
When he was tested for alcohol, the reading showed 41μg, more than four times the 9μg allowed for drivers who have had their licence for less than three years.
The driver was charged and released.
Police have urged road users to be careful while the NGO Reaction has called for those who break traffic rules to face bigger fines following three fatal traffic accidents over the weekend.
Two bikers and a woman died in the accidents in Paralimni, Limassol and Paphos.
The human factor is still the main cause of accidents, police said.
“There is a strong need to drive carefully, for good driving behaviour,” a statement said. “It is the personal responsibility of everyone to drive responsibly, following the traffic code.”
Police are doing what they can to prevent fatal and serious road accidents and are asking everyone to help reduce such incidents, they added.
It is important to keep to the speed limit, use safety belts and helmets and not to drive under the influence of alcohol or while using mobile phones, the announcement said.
Road safety NGO Reaction called for higher penalties and said there should be no more deaths on the roads.
The House should debate the issue immediately and needs to vote on how to improve road safety, it said.
“They must vote before the House closes for the summer holidays,” head of Reaction Marios Stavrou said. “Lives are being lost, there is no more time to be lost. I personally call on the President of the Republic, the President of the House and all MPs to go ahead with the measures they have before them.”
If there is a need for more funds to improve the road network these should be made available immediately, he added.
Stavrou also referred to traffic cameras, which he said need to be installed immediately if necessary.
“If the whole road safety strategy needs to be redesigned, then let’s do it before we lose more young people,” he concluded.
Two people were arrested for their involvement in the accidents at the weekend.
A 27-year-old man involved in a traffic accident on Saturday afternoon in which a 36-year-old woman lost her life was arrested the following day.
According to the police, at about 4pm on Saturday a car driven by 36-year-old Chrystalla Koumoushi crashed with the double cab driven by the 27-year-old while the car was attempting a turn.
The two drivers were taken by ambulance to Paphos general hospital, where Koumoushi died.
Police have arrested another person, a 55-year-old man involved in a fatal accident which happened on the road from Sotira to Paralimni on Sunday afternoon.
Kyriakos Kavasis, 32, a resident of Sotira, was killed in the crash at around 5.15pm.
The motorbike he was riding collided with a car driven by the 55-year-old man coming from the opposite direction who cut off the bike when he attempted to turn right.
The biker was pronounced dead upon his arrival at Famagusta general hospital.
A teenage motorcyclist was killed in yet another accident this weekend. The 19-year-old from Latvia died in an accident in Limassol early on Sunday. At around 1am the teenager was riding a high cc motorbike when at some point he lost control of the bike, hit a metal pole at the side of the road and was thrown onto the pavement.
He was wearing a helmet but died at the scene.
A tender for the study and construction of the first phase of the new Paphos-Polis Chrysochous road will be launched at the end of June, the department of public works announced on Thursday.
The first phase of the highway will span the Paphos villages of Ayia Marinouda and Stroumbi, and will be 15.5km long.
The cost of the project has been estimated at over €70m, while the work is expected to last three to four years.
The new road will be constructed from the Ayia Marinouda exit of the Limassol-Paphos highway, and will offer a more direct route to Polis Chrysochous, as travellers will not have to traverse the city of Paphos before making their way to the northern coastal communities of the Paphos district.
According to the pre-publication of the project, the first phase includes the construction of two traffic lanes, one for each direction. The prospect of the construction of two more lanes in the future is also foreseen.
Plans also envisage a flying junction on the Limassol to Paphos motorway, two tunnels – 730 metres and 290 metres – five bridges, two flyovers, and nine undergrounds passages.
A 47-year-old man was on Thursday jailed for a month and fined €3,150, among others, for a series of traffic violations including, speeding, running red lights, and failure to comply with police instructions.
The 47-year-old had been clocked on March 17 on Nicos and Despina Pattihis Street in Larnaca, by members of the police motorcycle unit and was flagged down for a routine check.
Instead of stopping, the man accelerated in a bid to escape. The officers chased him and repeatedly asked him to stop his vehicle but he went on, running two red lights and driving at speeds that reached 160km/hour on a 65km road in Larnaca and 186km on the Larnaca-Kofinou road where the legal limit is 100km.
He was eventually intercepted near Skarinou and officers found out he had been driving with a suspended licence and without insurance.
On March 21 he appeared before the Larnaca district court where he admitted to 12 charges. He was remanded in custody and on Thursday he was sentenced to 30 days in jail. He was fined €3,150, his licence was suspended for four months, and he also received 27 points.
THE government has submitted seven bills to parliament introducing stricter penalties for certain traffic offences in a bid to curb deaths and serious injury on the island’s roads.
In the accompanying memo, the justice and transport ministries said a study carried out by the law department of the University of Cyprus has found that “current penalties for specific offences considered as the main cause of serious traffic collisions are very low compared with other EU member states and other advanced countries.”
The government said it sought to update penalties relating to speeding and driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, driving without a licence, failure to wear a seatbelt or crash helmet, and using a phone while driving.
The bills also provide for stiffer penalties for driving uninsured and without a road worthiness certificate.
Penalties are also raised for hit and runs, running a red light, parking on pavements – a common practice all over Cyprus – and taking parking spots reserved for handicapped persons.
They also introduce vehicle seizures, lower alcohol levels for drivers who had their licence suspended after completing 12 penalty points, and enable courts to issue driving bans pending an investigation.
For instance, if the alcohol levels in the breath and blood exceeds the legal limits but is under 36μg/100ml or 82mg/100ml respectively, the offender faces a jail term of up to three months and or a fine of up to €1,500. The penalties rise according to the alcohol levels.
People convicted of drink driving who re-offend within three years could face double the initial penalty imposed on them.
Police will also be given the power to impound cars for 24 hours if the driver is drunk, if they refuse to undergo a breathalyser test, or if they refuse to undergo the final test – unless someone else can drive them home.
Reckless driving that ends up causing bodily harm will be punishable with up to three years in jail and or a fine of up to €10,000.
Anyone involved in a hit and run with a fatality faces up to 10 years in jail and or up to €30,000.
Lesser penalties are provided for hit and runs involving bodily harm and property damage.
Included in the bills is an increase in the fines for speeding from €1 per kilometre to €5; using a phone while driving will fetch a €300 fine instead of the current €85.
Failure to wear a seatbelt will cost €400, also up from €85.
Not wearing crash helmets on motorcycles, running red lights, and parking on pedestrian crossings and spaces reserved for handicapped drivers will cost €200 from €85.
The court sentenced the man to two months in prison and gave him three penalty points for reckless driving, for driving without insurance coverage and driver’s licence and for failing to follow police instructions.
He was also asked to sign two three-year guarantees for €1,000 each, for parking on the opposite traffic lane and driving without the consent of the vehicle’s owner.