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MPs urge Government to ban use of hands-free phones while driving

MPs urge Government to ban use of hands-free phones while driving

The Government is being urged to consider banning the use of hands-free mobile phones while driving, by a group of MPs. In its Road safety: driving while using a mobile phone report, released today, the Transport Committee says the evidence is clear: “using a mobile phone while driving is dangerous, with potentially catastrophic consequences”. In 2017, there were 773 casualties, including 43 deaths and 135 serious injuries, in collisions where a driver using a mobile phone was a contributory factor. 

The committee is also calling for tougher penalties and, as evidence shows that using a hands-free device creates the same risks of crashing, it is recommending the ban on hand-held devices should be extended to hands-free phones. It is calling for the Government to overhaul current laws on using mobile devices while driving to cover use irrespective of whether this involves sending or receiving data. The call – which coincidentally came the week after a senior police officer escaped a driving ban after crashing into a car while trying to make a hands-free phone call - has been backed by several road safety organisations including Brake and IAM. 

Lilian 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. “We need tougher restrictions, better enforcement and more education to make our roads safer for all.” 

The report says the number of people killed or injured in road collisions in which a driver using a mobile phone was a contributory factor has risen steadily since 2011, but the rate of enforcement has dropped by more than two-thirds. As a result, the Transport Committee is also calling on the Government to work with police to boost enforcement and make better use of technology. The penalties for using a hand-held mobile while behind the wheel were increased in 2017 to a maximum of six points on their licence and a £200 fine, but the report says they still do not appear to be commensurate with the risk created, and should be reviewed and potentially increased. 

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