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KING OF THE ROAD.

WHEN you think of all the potential hazards on the roads, it's funny just what seems to annoy certain people.

So-called experts claimed to have proof that using mobile phones while driving instantly turns you into a Mr Magoo with the IQ of a slime-mould found halfway up Mount Everest.

They weren't talking about people driving along juggling with the handset as they changed gear or steered round corners. They had based their study on hands- free models.

Put simply, if you speak while driving, they claimed, you will be a lot more dangerous.

Don't Talk And Drive might seem like a pretty bizarre road safety campaign, but in these days of nanny-state New Labour, what do you expect?

A screaming argument at 95mph, three inches from the car in front, is obviously going to be dangerous - but chatting away to Auntie Agnes about how pretty the snowdrops were this year? It might make the driver fall asleep but it's hardly likely to turn you into a gibbering idiot.

I like mobile phones, especially in the car. They let me warn if I'm running late, call the emergency services if I see an accident or even just call to say "I love you."

A mobile phone in the car makes me a safer driver as well as almost managing the virtually impossible task of trying to turn me into a decent, considerate human being.

If phoning is dangerous, then having a conversation with a real person in the car has to be even riskier. Making eye contact with the person you are talking to will take your attention away from the road more than a mobile phone ever would.

Sometimes it would be nice to have an excuse to not let people into your car, particularly if they talk too much. But actually banning passengers or doing away with all seats but the driver's would throw the liberal do-gooding, namby-pambies into a moral dilemma. You can't whine on about the environment and car-sharing if you are forcing people to drive alone.

Having said all that, in the past couple of weeks I've seen at first- hand what a mobile phone can do to a seemingly intelligent human being.

I was sitting in a Glasgow cafe with an unmarried friend who was just about to buy his first mobile phone. An attractive woman spotted the brochure he was looking at and began a conversation with him.

Although she was offering him some good advice, you didn't have to be a psychologist to see she was actually blushing a lot and trying to chat him up.

I noticed it, everyone else in the cafe noticed it, the throngs in Sauchiehall Street noticed it, but Nokia-Boy was so engrossed in the prospect of getting his own mobile he missed every one of her subliminal messages.

If he can't notice the attention of an attractive woman because he has almost got a mobile , what are his chances of noticing things like traffic lights or other cars braking when he finally does get himself connected?

I concede that buying mobile phones does, in fact, damage your chance of meeting new people.
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Copyright 1999 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Features
Author:King, Conrad
Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:May 28, 1999
Words:526
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