An inquiry into road safety recommends change to hands-free phone laws
A Transport Select Committee (TSC) report suggests that using any mobile device while driving – even a hands-free phone – is a “serious detriment” to a motorist’s ability to drive safely.
Presently, a driver only commits an offence if the phone is hand-held and is being used to send or receive data.
The report recommends redefining the offence to cover all hand-held phone usage, while exploring the potential of banning hands-free use.
This may trouble operators who rely on the technology.
Department for Transport (DfT) trends show that, where mobile phones contributed to a collision, the death toll has risen – from 15 people in 2009 to 43 people in 2017.
Since the first act to limit mobile phone use was passed in 2003, 7 million more cars have been registered on the roads and over the same period household mobile phone ownership increased from 76% to 95%.
But TSC has called it “inappropriate” for the government to condone hands-free use as being safe by omission. Dr Gemma Briggs, senior lecturer in psychology at the Open University, says that a driver is four times more likely to be involved in a collision whether the phone is hands-free or hand-held.
However, suggestions of an all-out ban has drawn criticism. Nick Lyles, Head of Roads Policy from the RAC, cautions against one. “There are so many fundamental logistics around it,” he says. “Such as how operators communicate with their drivers and companies interact with staff during deliveries.”
As well as the complexities, Mr Lyles says hands-free phone use should be considered within the context of other distractions.
But the mounting casualties make the issue difficult to ignore, says the Committee.