New research from Newcastle University has called for drivers to stop using hands-free kits at the wheel. Their findings show that the harder a driver has to concentrate on work related calls, the slower their reaction time. The experiment compared driving reaction speeds on a simulator when using a hand-held phone, a hands-free device or no phone at all. The results showed that all mobile phone use greatly reduces a driverÕs efficiency rating, which takes into account distraction, inattention, speed control and lane positioning factors. Hand-held devices meant that driving efficiency fell by half (48.9 per cent), while a hands-free kit saw scores of 63.4 per cent, showing that both reduce attention and have the capability to cause accidents on our roads. Research shows that distraction can reduce hazard perception and reaction times in a similar vein to drink-driving; although fleet operators take no action to reduce the use of hand-held devices while at work. One-in-five car crashes could be caused in-part by driver distraction, with drivers attempting to carry out a secondary task two-three times more likely to crash than those concentrating solely on the road. A recent AA/Populus survey revealed that 7 per cent felt under pressure to answer their hand-held devices while driving for or to work; 2 per cent said they were even compelled to answer calls, texts and e-mail while they were driving. Brake, the road safety charity, has called employers to ban hands-free phones from fleets: The fact is, if you try to do something else while driving, you increase your risk of crashing and injuring or killing someone. No call, text or email is worth that risk,Ó said Roz Cumming, professional engagement manager at Brake. By following the lead of the few companies already operating complete bans on mobile phones at the wheel, hand-held or hands-free, employers can send a clear message to staff, business contacts and the wider community that they care about the safety of their drivers and other road users. They also make it easier for individual employees to comply with best practice safety advice and keep themselves safe. This has the knock-on effect of reducing fleet crashes and associated costs _ a win-win for companies.Ó