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Issue:- 24 April 2014

Risky hands free calls at the wheel on the rise, as confusion about dangers persists

JUST over 10 years after hand held mobiles were banned at the wheel, Brake is renewing its call to ban hands free kits, as a Brake and Direct Line survey reveals that almost half (45%) of drivers admit to chatting when driving. While the use of hand held phones by drivers has dropped, hands free use has risen, likely to be linked to the mistaken belief that it is a safe alternative. Brake and Direct Line's survey reveals:-

►  Almost half (45%) of drivers admit to talking on a phone at the wheel, down from 54% in 2006.

►  Hand held use has dropped to 1 in 8 (13%), from over a 3rd (36%) in 2006.

►  Hands-free use has risen to nearly 4 in 10 (38%), from 1 in 5 (22%) in 2006.

For the past 10 years, Brake believes that the lack of a total ban has left many drivers unaware that using a hands free mobile at the wheel is just as risky as using a hand held.  According to the survey, 3 in 10 (32%) don't know that groups like Brake say that the:- "fact is any type of phone use while driving is dangerous."

In reality, it is the distraction of the conversation that causes the danger. Studies have shown the risk of being in a crash that causes injury is increased four times for drivers on both hand held and hands free phones, with reactions 30% slower than driving at the UK drink drive limit, and 50% slower than under normal conditions.

Brake and Direct Line's survey also found that texting at the wheel is a widespread menace, with 3 in 10 of all drivers (30%) admitting sending or reading messages while driving, and an even higher proportion of young drivers (age 18 to 24); more than 4 in 10 (44%); doing so. Smartphone apps are an additional threat, with 1 in 8 (12%) drivers using them at the wheel, up from less than 1 in 10 (9%) in 2006.

Brake calls for a total ban on mobile phone use at the wheel, to prevent hundreds of senseless crashes, deaths and injuries every year, and the prioritisation of traffic policing by government to help enforce it. But are they correct? Many of our readers have asked that are mobile phones just easy things to blame as logs of calls show that a phone was used, where as say smoking a cigarette is harder to prove that it was being smoked at the time. So to is a driver increased in a radio program, or a tune being pumped out on the MP3 player?

What are your views on Brake wanting to ban all ? Email our newsroom  to:- Let us know if you agree with Brake's advice to drivers:- "remove the temptation by turning their phones to silent and putting them in the boot, out of sight and reach?"

Liverpool's Coroner's court set for move!

A report to the Council's Cabinet meeting on Friday, 25 April 2014 is recommending that Liverpool's Coroner's court moves to the former Community Justice Centre on Boundary Street in Kirkdale. The proposal is partly a result of the Hall's growing success as a venue for a wide range of events including weddings, parties, corporate events and music recitals, which is starting to impact on the Coroner's service. It will also provide it with a modern court setting to better meet growing casework demands.

Nick Kavanagh, Director of Regeneration, said:- "We are conscious that attending hearings at the Coroner's Court is a
difficult and distressing time for people, and are sensitive to the fact that the increasing number of events means that the Hall is becoming much busier than it used to be. We have been looking for some time at finding suitable, more modern accommodation which will enable the service to be provided elsewhere, and the Community Justice Centre meets the requirements. This move will also secure the long-term future of the building in a key area of north Liverpool when the current occupiers move out."

Liverpool Senior Coroner André Rebello added:- "I am pleased that alternative accommodation has been found for the Coroner's Court Service and our team will be working closely with the City Council to make sure the transfer is as smooth as possible. The Council is to be congratulated for responding promptly to the legislative emphasis in the new Coroners Act around the need for suitable accommodation. This modern facility will put bereaved people at the centre of Coroner investigations."

The building, which is owned by the Archdiocese of Liverpool, is considered appropriate as it was refurbished in 2006 when it opened as a court and meeting rooms. There is also scope to share part of the accommodation with other Council services and public bodies to minimise the annual running costs. The Coroner's service has been based at St George's Hall since 2011 after it relocated from the Cotton Exchange on Old Hall Street. If approved, the service will move in May 2014.

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