The UK government’s Transport Committee has looked at the issue of drivers using hands-free mobile phones at the wheel. Current laws give the “misleading impression” that hands-free options are safe, MP’s warned.
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” according to the Commons Transport Select Committee.
Expert witnesses told the committee that taking a hands-free phone call caused “essentially the same” amount of distraction as being at the legal limit for alcohol blood level in England and Wales. Hard to believe such sweeping statements of course, and some of us may well believe that listening to the radio, controlling squabbling children or talking to other passengers is equally distracting, but it seems the government is keen to act on the Committee’s findings.
The ban would not affect Scotland, as new laws would have to be passed by the Scottish Parliament.
Laurenz Gerger, Motor Policy Adviser at the Association of British Insurers (ABI) said:
““A substantial body of research shows that using a mobile phone – whether hand-held or hands-free – while driving is a significant distraction and substantially increases the risk of the driver crashing.
“Mobile phone use while driving should be as socially unacceptable as drink driving. The ABI welcomes the Transport Select Committee’s report and any initiative that improves road safety and has the potential to save lives.”
The UK CEO of Zurich, Tulsi Naidu, has already called for a ban on the use of hands-free mobiles whilst driving and lawyer Paul Reddy from Slater Godon told the Telegraph earlier this year that the distraction caused by chatting hands-free was the big problem, not the issue of being in control of the car.
Commenting on the report, Edmund King, President of the AA said; “It is crucial that we continue to raise public awareness of the dangers of using a phone at the wheel and change attitudes to its use as we have with drink driving.
“Enforcement is also key. Even the more stringent penalties have had less effect than expected on mobile phone abuse because offenders think the chance of being caught is minimal.”
RAC head of roads policy Nicholas Lyes said: “We welcome the committee’s report and its acknowledgement of the dangers of using a handheld mobile when driving. Many lives are needlessly lost by drivers having handheld phone conversations, texting and looking at, or even posting on social media when behind the wheel.
“The RAC’s research suggests that bad habits in relation to illegal phone use while driving are on the rise once more, with a quarter admitting to making or taking a call with a handheld phone and almost one in seven admitting to taking videos or phones while driving.
“We support the committee’s call for the Government to look more closely at the effectiveness of the increase of the penalties in 2017, and key to this is whether enforcement is adequate and whether the police have sufficient resources and technology to be able to crack down on this scourge. We also welcome calls to look at the clarity of current laws and strongly back the need for public education campaigns.