43 minutes ago
Any phone call makes drivers four times more likely to crash, according to a new study ( PA )
The latest headlines in your inbox
Using a hands-free mobile phone while driving is as dangerous as calling on a hand-held device, researchers have claimed.
The findings, based on trials during which volunteers “drove” simulators, showed that any phone call makes drivers four times more likely to crash.
It has led to demands for a ban on all phone calls while driving, including with hands-free systems.
Hand-held calls by motorists became illegal in 2003 and penalties were toughened in 2017. But experts say that existing laws have led drivers to believe that hands-free calls are safe.
The research was conducted by Dr Graham Hole from Sussex University, with Dr Gemma Briggs and Dr Jim Turner of the Open University.
According to Dr Hole’s book, The Psychology Of Driving, participants were asked to spot hazards while distracted by a phone conversation or while undisturbed.
Distracted drivers took two and a quarter seconds to respond to dangerous situations compared with just a second for undistracted drivers. “Drivers talking on a phone are significantly impaired, regardless of whether the phone is hand-held or hands-free,” Dr Hole said.
The academics have called on ministers and the Department for Transport (DfT) to implement a total phone ban for drivers.
“Current legislation together with claims (from manufacturers) that hands-free is safe is dangerously misleading the public,” Dr Hole added.
DfT figures show that, on Britain’s roads in 2017, 33 people were killed and 90 seriously injured during crashes in which a driver using a mobile phone was a contributory factor.
But Dr Hole said the true toll is far higher if crashes caused by hands-free calls, not included in the statistics, are added. He added that emerging technology, such as roadside sensors that detect phone use, would help police enforce a total ban.
A DfT spokesman said: “Last year the Government doubled penalties for using a mobile phone while driving. However, we are determined to do more.”