Government urged to consider tougher restrictions on using hands-free phones whilst driving
The Commons Transport Select Committee has urged the government to consider a crackdown on the use of hands free kit for phones whilst driving.
The Government should consider tougher restrictions on driving while using a mobile phone and stricter enforcement of the law to prevent the ‘entirely avoidable’ tragedy of deaths and serious injuries from related crashes on the roads, the MPs said.
It has been illegal in the UK since 2003 to use a handheld phone whilst driving, but the committee is worried that current laws give the ‘misleading impression’ that hands free options are safe.
Indeed, the MPs in their ‘Road Safety: driving while using a mobile phone,’ report have urged the government to ‘overhaul current laws on using hand-held mobile devices while driving, to cover use irrespective of whether this involves sending or receiving data.’
“As evidence shows that using a hands-free device creates the same risks of crashing, the Committee also recommends that Government explores options for extending the ban on hand-held devices to hands free phones,” the MPs added.
They cited data that showed in 2017 there were 773 road casualties, including 43 deaths and 135 serious injuries, in collisions where a driver using a mobile phone was a contributory factor.
The MPs say the data shows that the number of people killed or seriously injured has risen steadily since 2011.
But they said that the rate of enforcement has plunged by more than two thirds since 2011.
“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 the chair of the Committee, Lilian Greenwood MP.
“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,” said Greenwood. “Offenders also need to know there is a credible risk of being caught, and that there are serious consequences for being caught.”
“There is also a misleading impression that hands-free use is safe,” said Greenwood. “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.”
In 2013 a study by the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that sixty-nine percent of US drivers admitted to talking on their mobile phones while driving, compared to 21 percent in the UK.
In 2012 a study from the the Institute of Advanced Motorists found that social networking or emailing with a smartphone while driving could be more dangerous than driving while under the influence of alcohol or cannabis.
And in 2010 Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project found that 27 percent of American adults reported SMSing (or texting) while driving.