The Transport Select Committee last week called for a complete ban on the use of mobile phones and other devices – even through a hands-free system – while driving.
Should this ban come into force, it could have implications for coach and bus operators as well as ordinary motorists.
According to the group of MPs, the use of hands-free devices can still have severe – and sometimes fatal – consequences, so more severe penalties ‘commensurate with the risks’ should be introduced.
The recommendation was made as a result of the committee’s latest report, Road Safety: driving while using a mobile phone.
The report found that ‘using a hands-free device creates the same risks of crashing’ as using a hand-held mobile phone.
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 people killed or seriously injured has risen steadily since 2011.
However, the rate of enforcement has fallen by over two thirds since then. While the Committee welcomed the Government’s review of roads policing and traffic enforcement, the report calls on the Government to work with police to ‘boost enforcement and make better use of technology.’
Chair of the Committee, Lilian Greenwood MP, said: “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.”
Paul Loughlin, Motoring Solicitor at the law firm Stephensons Solicitors LLP, said: “The use of mobile phones behind the wheel remains a persistent problem and for many, these proposals will be a welcome step forward.
“At the same time, however, the proposals also raise some questions, particularly around the ability of the police to enforce these laws.
“It’s much easier to spot a driver using a handheld device behind the wheel, than it would be for a driver using a hands-free device.
“It’s also not clear how the police would enforce this law with motorcyclists who use Bluetooth helmets, for instance.
“As the proposals now go to public consultation, I’d be very keen to see how these proposals develop.”