We must all examine our consciences regarding mobile phones in cars

geograph-3292071-by-david-dixonIt’s a local stretch of the A34 I know well. On August 10th we were all stunned and horrified by the terrible accident which occurred there, as reported by the Guardian:

A lorry driver who killed a woman and three children when his vehicle ploughed into their stationary car while he was scrolling through music on his mobile phone has been jailed for 10 years.

Tracy Houghton, 45, her sons, Ethan, 13, Josh, 11, and stepdaughter, Aimee, 11, died instantly when Tomasz Kroker drove his lorry into their car at 50mph. Their car was shunted underneath the back of a heavy goods vehicle and crushed to a third of its size.

An hour earlier, Kroker, 30, had signed a declaration to his employer promising he would not use his phone at the wheel.

The tragedy was witnessed by Tracy Houghton’s partner, Mark Goldsmith, who was in a separate car with his 13-year-old son Jake. The family had been on the way home from a camping holiday in Devon.

The hell for the family and friends of the poor mother and children, who perished in this accident, is unimaginable. It is one of the most awful accidents I have ever heard about.

The Daily Mail has picked on 17 foreign lorry drivers it photographed using their phones while driving.

But I think we all need to examine our consciences here. Since I heard about this accident I have started to store my mobile phone in the boot, switched off, while I am driving. The temptation to perhaps get the thing out in a static traffic queue is too much.

I see people using their phones while driving almost everyday. And it’s not just phones. Who amongst us has not fiddled with our sat nav or music system, while keeping half an eye on the road?

James O’Brien on LBC put it very well:

Every driver in the country has a personal conscience-based battle with their mobile phone when they get behind the wheel.

Photo by David Dixon.

* Paul Walter is a Liberal Democrat activist and member of the Liberal Democrat Voice team. He blogs at Liberal Burblings.

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  • Nonconformistradical 3rd Nov '16 - 7:18pm

    The government’s proposal to double the penalty points to 6 is pathetic. If this is as dangerous as drink driving then the offence should carry at least similar penalties. Especially given the amount of repeat offending going on – http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-37855713

  • This case highlights the significant changes to mobile phones in the last decade and the extent to which we have become addicted to the new features. Thus I suspect the lorry driver didn’t consider scrolling through his music as “using his phone” as he wasn’t making or receiving calls.

    Before smartphones and widely available and usable mobile internet the problem with mobile phones was people making and receiving calls and text messages. Now we use them for so much more, much of which actually requires us to give greater attention to what’s displayed on the phone’s screen.

    The worrying thing is that circa 8~10 years back the next biggest driver distraction to the mobile phone and thus cause of accidents was the SatNav. Now not only do we have smart phones and satnav but we also have car dashboard displays that are also information rich combined with vastly simplified multifunction controls – that assume you can read the display to locate the correct menu option to adjust whatever, when an older car had fewer choices and used discrete controls.

  • John Mitchell 4th Nov '16 - 6:55pm

    This horrific and tragic accident is sadly one of far too many. I don’t know what the specific answer is with cutting mobile phone usage behind the wheel. I’ve never done it myself and use public transport almost exclusively.

    Above all else, in addition to a prison sentence I believe that an offence such as this and causing death by dangerous and careless driving should carry a permanent driving ban for life. People such as the driver here should never be allowed to drive again. Our current sentencing, and particularly in this area, is in my view far too lenient.

  • Eleanor Bell 7th Nov '16 - 12:13pm

    This extreme hazard needs a two pronged campaign – one to ban any use of mobile phone whilst driving (assume all phones are smart and multi function, and the other to return in car functions to low tech push button (radio, music etc), no scrolling anywhere! I’m divided on Sat Nav (or TomTom on phone) – they can reduce hesitation, sudden lane changing, or map reading when you don’t know where you are going, but they can distract as well. My solution of choice is to look up the journey beforehand and make a linear note of junctions and directions – the task in itself helps embed the route in your brain.

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