The UK Government is being urged to consider tougher restrictions on driving while using a mobile phone and stricter enforcement of the law to prevent the ‘entirely avoidable’ tragedy of deaths and serious injuries from related crashes on the roads.
This comes following the publication of the Transport Committee’s report on ‘Road safety: driving while using a mobile phone’ which calls on the UK Government to overhaul current laws on using mobile devices while driving, to cover use irrespective of whether it involves sending or receiving data.
The Committee recommends extending the ban on hand-held devices to hands-free mobile phone use at the wheel, as the current law creates the dangerous false impression that it is safe to use a mobile phone with a hands-free kit – it is not.
Studies have shown that using a hands-free mobile phone at the wheel can impair a driver as much as a handheld device . All phone use behind the wheel is dangerous, and we need the law to reflect this by banning the use of hands-free devices.
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 number of mobile phone-related road crashes has steadily increased since 2011, but the rate of enforcement has fallen by two-thirds .
To address this, the Committee’s report also calls on the UK Government to work with the police to boost enforcement and make better use of technology; and review the penalties for using a hand-held mobile phone with a view to potentially increase them so that it is clear there are serious consequences to being caught.
Chair of the Committee, Lilian Greenwood MP, 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.”
Ross Moorlock, chief operating officer at Brake, said: “We welcome the calls from MPs in the Transport Committee to tackle the dangers of phone use behind the wheel. Using a phone whilst driving can impair you as much as driving drunk.
Fleet managers should adopt and enforce a clear policy against distracted driving and should ban the use of all mobile phones (hand-held and hands-free) and other electronic devices when driving. They should encourage all drivers to turn their phone off, or to silent, before starting their journey, and to place their phone in the glove compartment or a secure place that cannot be reached while the vehicle is moving.”
 Hole, K. et al (2018), The impact of attentional set and situation awareness on dual tasking driving performance, Transportation Research Part F: Traffic Psychology and Behaviour, Vol.57
 Department for Transport (2018), Reported road casualties Great Britain: Main report, RAS50007
 UK Home Office (2018), Fixed penalty notices for motoring offences statistics data tables: police powers and procedures year ending 31 March 2018, October 2018