BAN HANDS-FREE CALLS IN THE CAR
MPs demand prosecution of drivers who use kits – because they’re as harmful as holding a mobile
DRIVERS should be banned from all phone use behind the wheel – including hands-free calls, MPs declare today.
Using technology such as car speakerphones or bluetooth headsets can create the same crash risks as holding a phone, they warn. The Commons transport committee believes that current laws give the ‘misleading impression’ that handsfree use is safe.
Instead, MPs demand that ministers look at extending the current legislation, which only bans use of hand-held phones while driving.
They also want the Government to consider increasing punishments for drivers using mobiles, as well as recruiting more traffic officers or using roadside cameras to catch offenders. The MPs acknowledge that there would be practical challenges to criminalising hands-free phone use and enforcing the offence, but insisted ‘this does not mean that we should not do it’. The
radical proposal, which will now be examined by the Department for Transport, is likely to be welcomed by road safety groups, particularly as figures suggest the number of crashes involving mobiles is rising.
However, motoring groups have questioned how banning the use of hands-free technology would affect delivery drivers, who often rely on it, as well as taxi drivers.
During the select committee’s inquiry, Nicholas Lyes, the RAC’s head of roads policy, said: ‘How would companies interact with their staff, particularly if they were doing deliveries, or if they were taxi companies? How would you necessarily enforce it without the technology that could pick up the call that was taking place?’
In 2016, the Daily Mail launched its End The Mobile Madness campaign following a series of deaths caused by reckless drivers who were talking on the phone or texting.
The campaign demanded stiffer punishments for drivers caught using a hand-held mobile at the wheel.
The following year, in March 2017, ministers doubled the punishment for using hand-held mobile phones while driving from three penalty points to six – and increased fines from £100 to £200. However, figures show the number of people dying in crashes that involve a driver using a mobile phone has continued to rise. In 2017, there were 43 deaths and 135 serious injuries in collisions where phone use was a contributory factor.
In their report today, the MPs from the transport committee urge the Government to consider whether penalties should be increased further. They also warn that for the law to be effective there must be a credible threat of being caught.
The number of drivers who received a Fixed Penalty Notice, were sent on an awareness course or faced court action fell by more than two-thirds in the six years from 2011. Some experts have blamed this decline on cuts to the number of traffic officers.
Labour MP Lilian Greenwood, chairman of the committee, 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.
‘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 handsfree use is safe. Any use of a phone distracts from a driver’s ability to pay full attention.’
The committee heard from experts that a driver using a phone – hand-held or handsfree – is four times more likely to crash.
Dr Gemma Briggs, a senior lecturer in psychology at the Open University, told the MPs that even for around five minutes after a driver has ended a phone conversation, they are still at a significantly increased risk of a crash because they remain distracted.
The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents has said drivers who use a phone, even via hands-free, fail to see road signs, and are more likely to ‘tailgate’ the vehicle in front and take longer to brake.
‘A credible risk of being caught’
GREEN MP Caroline Lucas suggests the creation of an temporary all-female unity cabinet to stop No deal. women, she instructs us, are less tribal than men and more capable of establishing trust.
Forget that she could have prevented No deal by voting for Theresa May’s withdrawal agreement, the jaw-dropping aspect of this proposal is Miss Lucas’s bigoted attitude towards men.
Imagine a male MP suggesting females were temperamentally unsuited to deciding on vital matters! his political life expectancy would be measured in minutes.
we have news for Miss Lucas: Possessing the Y chromosome does not make you less trustworthy or incapable of compromise. Some women actually voted for Brexit.
This absurd politician has achieved one thing: Unifying female colleagues against her after choosing an all-white fantasy cabinet. She has now been forced to apologise. You really couldn’t make it up.
Passenger seat: Rebecca Evans