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Number's up for motorists on phone
Updated: 2003-12-02 11:11

British motorists who talk on hand-held cell phones while driving risk being hit with a on-the-spot fine under a new law which aims to cut road accidents.

Those caught breaking the law may also face a fine if their case goes to court.

The law, which came into force Monday, bans drivers talking on hand-held phones even when they are stopped at traffic lights or at intersections.

The use of hands-free cell phones is allowed, but only if the phone is in a cradle on the car's dashboard.

Police say they will be lenient on motorists during the next two months while drivers become familiar with the new rules.

The new measure was introduced after research showed drivers who use a mobile phone while behind the wheel are four times more likely to have an accident.

The tests were carried out by the Automobile Association (AA) and the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents.

Transport Minister David Jamieson said: "The vast majority of motorists know that driving and using a mobile phone is dangerous and I hope that today's ban will make the roads safer for everyone.

"You are four times more likely to be involved in an accident when using a mobile phone and driving and this new offense will help make our roads safer."

But drivers will not receive penalty points on their licence unless further legislation is passed.

Motorists stopped while using hands-free mobiles while driving can still face prosecution under other motoring laws. They could, for example, be charged with driving without due care and attention, not being in proper control of their vehicle or driving dangerously

According to the Web site of the British-based Transportation Research Group, more than 35 countries -- including Italy, Japan and Greece -- have banned the use of hand-held mobile phones while driving.

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