Drivers face hands-free mobile phones ban

Hands-free motorbike kit

Hands-free motorbike kit

MPs could explore the idea of extending a ban on using hand-held mobile phones while driving to include hands-free devices.

Joshua Harris, of road safety charity Brake, said research showed using a hands-free phone "can impair a driver in the same way as a hand-held device and so it makes sense that the law treats these acts equally".

Since March 2017, motorists caught using a handheld phone have faced incurring six points on their licence and a £200 fine - up from the previous penalty of three points and £100.

In 2017, there were 773 casualties on Britain's roads, including 43 deaths and 135 serious injuries, in crashes in which the driver was using a mobile phone.

While it has been illegal to use a handheld phone at the wheel since 2003, using a hands-free device creates "the same risks of collision", the Commons Transport Select Committee said. Technology to detect people using phones is now in its infancy, and can't detect whether calls are being made by a passenger or a driver.

However, the rate of enforcement has dropped by more than two-thirds since 2011, MPs have said.

However, the Committee said these penalties "still do not appear to be commensurate with the risk created and should be reviewed and potentially increased so that it is clear there are serious consequences to being caught".

"Despite the real risk of catastrophic consequences for themselves, their passengers and other road users, far too many drivers continue to break the law by using hand-held mobile phones", said Chair of the Committee, Lilian Greenwood MP.

Members of the cross-party Transport Committee want tougher enforcement to "prevent the entirely avoidable tragedy of deaths and serious injuries".

A 2016 study by scientists at the University of Sussex found conversations via hands-free devices caused some drivers to visually imagine what was being discussed.

It also says that all phone use while driving, irrespective of whether it involves sending or receiving data, should be stopped.

"If mobile phone use while driving is to become as socially unacceptable as drink-driving, much more effort needs to go into educating drivers about the risks and consequences of using a phone behind the wheel. The reality is that any use of a phone distracts from a driver's ability to pay full attention, and the government should consider extending the ban to reflect this".

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