A collection of MPs are urging the UK government to consider banning the use of hands-free mobile devices by commercial and domestic drivers to make and take calls.
That’s following a report from the Transport Committee, titled Road Safety: driving while using a mobile phone, which outlines clear evidence that even using a hands-free mobile phone while driving is “dangerous” and has “potentially catastrophic consequences”.
The report details 773 casualties across the UK in 2017 (including 43 deaths and 135 serious injuries) as a result of vehicle collisions involving drivers that had been using a mobile phone.
The Transport Committee believes more serious penalties should be dished out for users of hands-free mobile devices, as their evidence indicates they are just as dangerous in terms of taking a driver’s attention away from the road. A widespread ban on all handheld devices should be extended to hands-free devices, according to MPs.
They believe the government should revise existing legislation on using mobile devices at the wheel to cover both sending and receiving mobile data.
Several of the UK’s most prominent road safety organisations back the calls, which come just days after a senior police officer avoided a driving ban after crashing their vehicle while attempting to make a hands-free call.
Lillian Greenwood, chairman of the Transport Committee, said: “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.
“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.
“Each death and serious injury which results from a driver using a mobile phone is a tragedy that is entirely avoidable.”
The Transport Committee wants the government to cooperate with the police to review how best to enforce revised legislation that prohibits hands-free mobile use. This includes making better use of technology to pinpoint drivers that regularly put themselves and other road users in danger.
In 2017, the penalties for using a mobile device at the wheel were made more severe, with drivers given a maximum of six points on their driving licence and a further £200 fine. However, the Transport Committee states that this is at odds with the greater risk and danger created by hands-free mobile use and should be reviewed at the earliest possible opportunity.