NEW calls for the banning of hands-free mobile phones when driving – and tougher sentences for the use of all mobile phones while driving – have been made in the light of new research that shows their use dramatically increases crash risk.
Almost half of drivers are putting lives on the line by chatting on their phones at the wheel, according to a survey by road safety charity Brake and insurer Direct Line.
Almost half (48%) admit risking their own and others’ safety by chatting on a phone while driving, of which two in three (65%) flout the law by using a hand-held phone, which has been illegal since 2003. A huge proportion (25%) talk on their phone at the wheel at least once a week, suggesting phone addiction is getting the better of many.
Brake and Direct Line have now launched a campaign urging drivers to ‘drive smart’ by putting their phones out of sight and out of mind while driving.
They are warning that using a hands-free or hand-held phone at the wheel can lengthen reaction times to a similar extent to drink driving, significantly increasing the risk of a devastating crash. Hard-hitting billboard adverts by Brake and Blue Hive are being displayed acrossLondonto get the message across that using a phone while driving can be fatal.
Julie Townsend, Brake deputy chief executive, said: ‘Use a phone while driving and you are taking a horrendous risk with your own life and the lives of others. Many drivers who wouldn’t dream of drink-driving are using phones while driving, oblivious that the effect on reaction times can be similar.
‘We’re urging people to drive smart, recognising that phone use at the wheel can and does destroy lives, and no call or text is ever that important. If you need to use your phone urgently, pull over somewhere safe first.’
In addition to a ban on hands-free phones, Brake also wants to see stiffer penalties for offenders.
Drivers caught using a hand-held phone at the wheel (to call or text) face a fixed penalty notice of £60 and three points. In May 2011 the Government announced the fine would increase to £80-£100. In some cases drivers may go to court and face disqualification and a maximum fine of £1,000.
The road safety charity wants offenders caught using a mobile phone while driving disqualified for a minimum 12-month period, to provide a real deterrent. Failing that, it wants a far higher fixed penalty fine introduced.