Call for ban on in-car hands-free phones

Road safety charity Brake is calling for a blanket ban on in-car hands-free phone systems.

Using a hand-held phone while driving is already illegal in the UK, so a proposal to prohibit even hands-free kits would completely eradicate calling from behind the wheel.

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A decade on from when the mobile phone ban was introduced, Brake is asking the government to assess its policy on all forms of telephone communication while driving.

A Freedom of Information act request by Brake showed that more than 575,000 people in the UK had penalty points on their driving licence for using a mobile phone, while 6.5% of these motorists had six or more points for driving while distracted.

The data was released at the start of National Road Safety Week (18 – 24 November), with Brake also asking for an increase in penalties given to those who break the calling and texting laws.

The charity believes the fine for those found using a mobile when driving should increase from £100 to anywhere between £500 and £1,000.

Brake called upon research into distractions behind the wheel to support its point, highlighting 98% of motorists were unable to divide their time without it affecting their ability to drive.

Using a mobile phone while driving, as well as drinking, eating and smoking are all likely to increase your risk of crashing, according to the report.

There are many types of hands-free mobile phone systems currently on the market, including Bluetooth functionality integrated into your car, aftermarket Bluetooth headsets and other products, and headphones that plug into your smartphone.

It’s argued that the physical aspect of actually holding a mobile is not the most dangerous part of using a device at the wheel – although it does clearly impede your ability to control a car.

Brake claims studies show that the act of concentrating on a conversation means drivers pay less attention to the road and are therefore slower to react to situations developing around them, “increasing reaction times in a similar way to drink-driving.”

Deputy chief executive of Brake, Julie Townsend:

“We’re living in an age when being constantly connected is the norm; more and more of us have smartphones, and find it hard to switch off, even for a minute.

“While there are enormous benefits to this new technology, it’s also posing dangerous temptations to drivers to divert their concentration away from the critical task at hand, often putting our most vulnerable road users in danger.”

In response to Brake’s calls, the government said it was not looking at banning hands-free mobile phone systems.

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