First publishedon www.ITSInternational.com
UK drivers could be banned from using phones in hands-free mode, following a suggestion from MPs.
The House of Commons Transport Select Committee has said that current UK law creates the “misleading impression” that the use of hands-free phones is a safe driving practice.
However, there is increasing evidence to show that hands-free usage “creates the same risks of collision as using a hand-held device,” say the law-makers.
In its latest report, Road Safety: driving while using a mobile phone, the committee says there were 773 causalities (including 43 deaths and 135 serious injuries in 2017) resulting from collisions where a driver using a mobile phone was a contributing factor.
The committee is now calling on the UK government to explore options for extending the ban on driving while using a hand-held mobile phone to include hands-free devices. It wants that the government publish a public consultation on the proposal by the end of 2019.
The report recommends that the government considers whether penalties for driving while using a mobile phone should be increased to “better reflect” the risks created by offenders.
Since March 2017, UK drivers caught using a hand-held mobile phone have faced incurring 6 penalty points on their licence and a £200 fine.
Additionally, the committee is urging the government to work with the police and crime commissioners to explore options for improving enforcement while also looking at opportunities to make greater use of technology.
Chair of the committee, Lilian Greenwood MP, says: “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.”
She insists that any use of a phone distracts 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,” Greenwood continues. “We need tougher restrictions, better enforcement and more education to make our roads safer for all.