$5,000 fine coming

By Anna Ramdass

By the end of the year, persons caught speaking on their cellphone while driving will be fined $5,000 or face two months jail with hard labour, Works and Transport Minister Jack Warner said yesterday. He said the way for the law will be paved in 30 days when the Motor Vehicle Amendment Bill, 2010 is taken to Parliament.

"This bill will make it a statutory offence for the use of mobile phones in cars," Warner said at yesterday's post-Cabinet press conference at the Prime Minister's Office in St Clair.

He said a three-month moratorium will be given to allow drivers to equip their vehicles with the necessary gadgets which will allow them to use the cellphone hands-free.

Warner said a study was done in Canada in 1997 which showed that people who use cell phones are 18 times more susceptible to cause accidents. He said drivers could pull over at the side of the road and talk on their cellphone when they receive a call; could allow a passenger to speak on their behalf; could let the caller leave a voicemail and return the call later; or they could let someone else drive while they talk on the cell phone.

"It has become even worse now that people are now text messaging while driving and all of this is what contributes to the carnage on the roads," Warner said.

Asked whether DVD screens which some drivers install on the front dashboard and even the seats of their vehicle will also be banned, Warner said this was discussed by Cabinet and it was felt that this was not a distraction, as it was impossible for a driver to watch a DVD and drive at the same time.

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