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From 1 December 2003, new legislation will come into effect making it illegal to hold your mobile phone whilst driving. If you need to press buttons on your mobile phone, it must be fixed to a holder on your dashboard or otherwise securely fixed, and talking on your phone should be "hands-free." RAC estimates that as many as three million motorists may unwittingly be breaking the law once the change comes into force.
RAC's research shows one fifth of the motorists who were aware of the change in the law were wrong in their knowledge of what the new law would comprise. For example:
Of those motorists who were aware of the impending law change and had no current hands-free equipment, 20% said that the law change would stop them using their phone entirely while 5% said they intended to do nothing about it, but would continue to use their mobile phone illegally. This could result in a fixed penalty of #30 or a fine on conviction of up to #1000 for such "hardcore" offenders.
A further 16% intended to invest in an ear-piece and wire device, not realising that this will also be illegal after 1st December if you need to handle the phone at any point to operate it. 62% were planning to invest in equipment such as a 'bluetooth' kit or a cradle-mounted hands-free kit that attaches to the dashboard.
"Our research makes worrying reading and suggests that further explicit guidance is required to ensure that motorists know what they will face when the law changes in December. It's estimated that 500,000 motorists are on the phone in their cars at any one time. By our estimation, a good proportion of them - as many as 33% - will deliberately or inadvertently continue to break the law when the use of hand-held phones is prohibited," commented RAC spokesperson Rebecca Bell.
RAC recommends that if you do need to use a phone whilst in your vehicle that you only do so with a fully fitted car kit and follow these simple guidelines: