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Bermuda imposes driving fine for mobile phones

Published:Wednesday | July 7, 2010 | 12:00 AM

Riders and drivers caught using a cellphone on the road face a US$500 fine, Bermudan lawmakers have agreed.

Legislation banning the use of mobile phones, iPods and other hand-held devices while driving was passed in the House of Assembly on Friday, with all sides supporting the move first mooted by the ruling Progressive Labour Party several years ago.

The Traffic Offences Procedure Act 1974 Specified Penalties Amendment Notice also forbids people under the age of 18 from riding an auxiliary cycle with a pillion passenger or riding between the hours of 1 and 5 a.m., bans the use of TV monitors in cars and increases the fine for having tinted car windows.

Premier and Transport Minister Dr Ewart Brown said the offences will be ticketable, meaning police officers can issue tickets on the spot to offenders.

Brown told the House a study at the University of Utah showed cellphone usage while driving was as dangerous as driving while drunk.

"The study, which was a simulated study, showed that cellphone-using drivers have a slower reaction time. They took nine per cent longer to hit the brakes and were 19 per cent slower to resume a normal driving speed after brake application.

"They also showed 24 per cent more variation in the distance at which they followed other vehicles. These impaired reaction times make drivers who are talking on the phone more likely to get into an accident.

"Three people in the study actually rear-ended the pace car they were supposed to be following in driving simulations."

Clear message

He also said banning cellphones and other devices would "increase driver attention and decrease road traffic accidents."

Opposition Leader Kim Swan supported the legislation.

Opposition MP John Barritt said driving while using a cellphone was already covered under the offence of driving without due care, but that the new legislation before the House sent out a clear message.

"People can get arrested (now) for using their cellphones and causing an accident," he said.

"I think what we're doing today is saying that using a cellphone is not something we can encourage on Bermuda's roads. It's clearly not something that I think is acceptable."

- CMC