Don't Drive and Talk in the UK
By Carlo Longino, Mon Nov 10 21:00:00 GMT 2003

The BBC reports on a new law in the UK that makes it illegal to drive and use your mobile -- sort of. But the authorities haven't really bothered to tell anyone just what the details are.

Banning people using their phones while driving isn't such a bad idea. I think all of us probably have a story about getting cut off or nearly hit by some fool blabbing away on their mobile while driving. Laws making such behavior aren't necessarily such a bad thing -- to a certain extent. But inevitably when the law and technology collide, there are some problems.

An new law takes effect in the UK on December 1 making it illegal to use your phone while driving -- if you have to hold it in your hand. That means even using a handsfree kit is out if you still have to use a hand to dial or answer calls. But there are some bizarre loopholes: all you need to get around the law is something in which to mount your phone, even if that means you still have to use your fingers to dial. And if your hands-free supports auto-answer and voice dialing, you're okay too.

So that means that I can't use a hands-free if I have to hit the answer button, but I can pound out text messages if my phone is mounted in a holder on the dash, though that may break existing laws requiring drivers to exercise "due care". That makes a lot of sense.

In addition to the confusing nature of the legislation, it seems like the government hasn't really gotten the word out, as one study says 40% of the British public had no idea about the law. Violators, by the way, are subject to a GBP 30 spot fine, or a fine of up to GBP 1000 in court.