Hands free phone ban urged for drivers
Proposals for tighter legislation to prevent all hand held mobile phone use while driving do not go far enough and should be expanded to cover hands free devices as well, say sector commentators.
On Friday, Government announced plans to urgently review existing law and close a loophole which has allowed motorists caught filming, taking photographs or browsing the internet – as opposed to calling or texting – to escape prosecution.
But it confirmed there are currently no plans to ban hands free phone use. IAM RoadSmart director of policy and research Neil Greig described the move as “good, but not good enough” and emphasised that using hands free mobile devices behind the wheel can be just as dangerous as hand held use.
“The facts are there to see – the use of mobile phones for any purpose and in any manner while driving is distracting and potentially fatal.” He also called for mobile speed cameras to be employed more broadly to catch drivers using hand held phones.
Government’s plans to review the law come in response to recommendations made in a Transport Select Committee report on driving while using a mobile phone, published in August.
The committee’s chair Lilian Greenwood commented: “The difference between interactive communications and standalone functions on our phones is a loophole that has prevented police from prosecuting drivers who continue to use their phones behind the wheel and put themselves and other road users at risk.”
But she added: “Our evidence showed that the risk from hands free devices is just as real. While we’re pleased that Ministers will prioritise work on hand held mobiles, this issue still needs to be addressed.”
The Government review is expected to be taken forward immediately, with further proposals planned to be in place by next spring to make the hand held mobile phone offences clearer for drivers and police forces.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said: “Drivers who use a hand held mobile phone are hindering their ability to spot hazards and react in time – putting people’s lives at risk.
“We welcome the Transport Select Committee’s report, and share their drive to make our roads even safer which is why this review will look to tighten up the existing law to bring it into the 21st Century, preventing reckless driving and reduce accidents on our roads.”