Motorists in the UK should be banned from making calls on hand-free mobile phones, a group of MPs has argued.
Currently, the use of a handheld phone behind the wheel has been outlawed since 2003. But the Commons Transport Select Committee said that mobile phone use of any kind whilst driving was dangerous, and the law needs to be changed to reflect this.
The committee pointed to the fact that the number of road deaths caused by mobile phone use has steadily increased in the UK over the past ten years. However, the number of people convicted for such offences has fallen by over two-thirds since 2011. In 2017, drivers using a mobile phone contributed to 773 casualties on British roads, including 43 fatalities and 135 serious injuries.
“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 committee chairwoman and Labour MP, Lilian Greenwood. “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.
“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. 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.”
Currently, any driver caught using a hand-held phone behind the wheel faces a £200 fine plus six points on their licence. However, there is no law prohibiting motorists from using a hands-free device. Road safety campaigners have backed the MPs’ concerns that using car speakers or bluetooth headsets is just as dangerous as using a handheld mobile phone.
“The government must clarify the law on using hand-held mobile devices while driving and close loopholes which treat sending or receiving data differently,” said Joshua Harris, director of campaigns at road safety charity Brake. “The current law also provides a dangerous false impression that it is safe to use a mobile phone with a hands-free kit – it is not.
“All phone use behind the wheel is dangerous, and we need the law to reflect this by banning the use of hands-free devices. We echo MPs’ call for the government to work with the police to boost enforcement and ensure there is a true deterrent to the menace of mobile phone use behind the wheel.”
A spokesperson for the Department for Transport said: “While mobile phones are a vital part of modern life and business, drivers must always use them safely and responsibly. Being distracted by a mobile phone while driving is dangerous and puts people’s lives at risk. The law is clear that anyone driving dangerously is committing a criminal offence.”