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IAM RoadSmart says control of hands-free mobile phone ‘long overdue’

IAM RoadSmart says control of hands-free mobile phone ‘long overdue’
IAM RoadSmart says control of hands-free mobile phone ‘long overdue’ – but enforcement will be near impossible without new tech and more police

IAM RoadSmart says it’s time to bust the myth of multi-tasking behind the wheel, to ensure drivers are fully aware of how dangerous a hands-free mobile phone can be.

With the report Road Safety: Driving While Using a Mobile Phone issued today (13 August) stating that “using a mobile phone while driving is dangerous, with potentially catastrophic consequences,” IAM RoadSmart says there needs to be much stricter controls on the use of hands-free mobile phones in cars – and they remain a major distraction to the task of driving.

However, the charity said that it cannot see how any ban can be enforced, with a lack of police numbers meaning drivers feel they won’t get caught.

Today saw the House of Commons Transport Committee issue its report on the use of hands-free mobile phones with MPs calling for tougher restrictions, enforcement and education on the issue.

Official statistics show that 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 figures show that the number of people killed or seriously injured has risen steadily since 2011, however alarmingly the rate of enforcement has dropped by more than two-thirds since then.

Two years ago, motorists caught using a hand-held phone have faced a punishment of six points on their licence and a £200 fine – a doubling of the previous penalty.

Neil Greig, IAM RoadSmart director of policy and research, said: “IAM RoadSmart strongly welcomed the House of Commons Transport Committee report as it fully confirms what we have known for some time – multi tasking is a myth and any form of smartphone use at the wheel is distracting.

“Clarifying the law so that any use of a phone that involves holding it or placing in the driver’s lap is made illegal should be a top government priority. It doesn’t matter if it’s for music selection or social media updates, it all increases risk behind the wheel particularly for new drivers.

“New laws and tougher penalties are welcome but will only work if the fear of being caught is increased. This can be done through more high-profile policing but could also given an immediate boost by issuing clear guidelines for the use of mobile speed cameras to prosecute any driver they spot with a phone to their ear. 

“The final piece in the jigsaw for IAM RoadSmart would be a revamping of the mobile phone awareness course with every first offender being sent on one to see and feel the real impact of their behaviour.”

He added: “Technology is changing however, and with the introduction of call blocking while in motion and other such measures, we would support the legislative change to ban hands-free to match hand-held.”

IAM RoadSmart also called for the greater use of education campaigns to ensure drivers are aware of the risks of a hands-free call.