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Ban hands-free kits, urge Brake, as 45% admit to at-the-wheel phone use

By Byron Rimmer
Tuesday, April 22, 2014 - 15:35

Comments (13)
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DANGER: Should hands-free be banned?

Hands-free kits should be banned, road safety charity Brake have insisted, after figures revealed 45% of motorists admit to chatting while driving.

The survey, in conjunction with Direct Line, also showed 13% of drivers commit hand-held use, a drop from 36% in 2006.

However, Brake claim the lack of a total ban has left many drivers unaware using a hands-free mobile at the wheel carries risks.

The study also found 30% of drivers admit sending or reading messages at the wheel, with 12% using smartphone apps while driving.

“It is shocking that, ten years after the ban, one in eight drivers continues to flout the law.”

Julie Townsend, Brake

Julie Townsend, Deputy Chief Executive at Brake, said: “It is shocking that, ten years after the ban, one in eight drivers continues to flout the law and put lives in danger by using a hand-held mobile at the wheel.

“Just as worrying is the widespread belief that using a hands-free kit is a safe alternative.

“Don’t kid yourself: it’s not.

“Using a hands-free phone while driving can end and ruin lives just as surely as using a phone hand-held, and no phone call or text is worth a life.

“The government needs to act now to stop this risky behaviour.

“We all need to take responsibility and put our phones safely out of reach and earshot while behind the wheel, and refuse to speak on the phone to others who are driving.”

Rob Miles, Director of Motor at Direct Line, added: “The fact that using a hands-free mobile while driving could be more dangerous than drink driving will understandably come as a shock to many drivers who currently use a hands-free device to comply with the law.

“The potential for casualties from mobile phone distraction is frightening.

“Hopefully as drivers become more aware of the dangers inherent in the use of mobile phones whilst driving, it will become as much of a social taboo as drink driving has become in recent years.”

Image courtesy of OregonDOT, with thanks.

Comments

The comments are closed.

  • Chris Buxton says...April 28, 2014 (14:16)

    I am pleased to see that the majority of the comments to this article reflect common sense. For heaven’s sake – recognise that life is a constant balance of risks. Some are acceptable – some are not. Placing a ton of metal in the hands of a human being at 70 mph is a risky thing to do but no-one is suggesting that we ban driving! Having a conversation with a metal box whilst I am driving is generally less risky than speaking to a passenger since our own body language tends to make us want to secure eye contact with the person with whom we are speaking if they are present. Yes, I am sure that there is an increased risk of an accident if the driver of a vehicle is speaking to another entity, real or hands free – so is the need to read road signs or noticing attractive advertising bill boards. Driving is an inherently dangerous activity (in silence, speaking with a passenger or being on a hands free phone), but the risk is made acceptable by the fact that our whole society is based around the need to travel faster than by foot! I would suggest that the point at which the risk becomes unacceptable is when the driver is required to carry out an unnecessary practical movement such as holding a telephone hand set or keeping their children under control etc. Incidentally, this would suggest that there is an argument for banning manual cars. Why introduce an unnecessary movement or action when all cars could be made with automatic transmissions? Do I hear a cry from the ‘go-faster stripe’ brigade…? Of-course we shouldn’t ban hands-free telephones in cars. Any way – there will soon be satellite guided vehicles on the road and we can all chat on the phone, make notes or simply sleep on our ever slower, over-crowded, painful journeys… (That’s if we can afford the parking once we get to our destinations!!)

  • David says...April 28, 2014 (14:01)

    BRAKE seem to have become a “BAN EVERYHING” organisation and as such should be ignored.

  • Nigel Boyle says...April 28, 2014 (12:28)

    Break is an excellent institution and normally I commend their efforts. However this truly is a case of throwing the baby out with the bath water. All examples in this report talk about someone doing something that is already illegal. Why ban something that is safer than talking to passengers to enforce existing laws.

  • E Haines says...April 24, 2014 (22:43)

    I can’t help thinking of the statistics that may prove that far more people are dying of stress related illness than some thirty odd years ago versus cars on the road etc. Yes I would have to admit that attention needed on mobile phone is a distraction I get more distracted by all these speed cameras. The subject of mobile phones while driving seems to be becoming a band wagon lately with hoping a balanced view can be accepted.

  • D Salisbury says...April 24, 2014 (14:24)

    I used to use my phone handsfree but I began to realise that, at the end of a conversation, my concentration ‘returned’. In other words, my concentration was not on the road to the degree that it should be. This is not the same as a conversation with passengers or listening to a radio, neither of which should be a priority or needs to be a priority over safe driving. I do listen to the radio but I know my focus on the programme is incidental — it comes and goes and I miss bits because driving gets my attention. There’s something about a phone call that demands full attention – you ‘know’ you are expected to listen and reply. A colleague who insists on calling me at the office always misses at least one turn when he’s talking to me. What does that tell us? If you kill someone because you had a drink and getting a taxi was inconvenient, you’d expect to get the book thrown at you. We managed well enough before mobile phones. Just how does endangering the lives of others justify maintaining your own personal convenience? I hope you arrive home safe to your family today.

  • James says...April 24, 2014 (14:17)

    I don’t understand how Brake expect a business to function should hands-free systems be banned. They clearly have no grasp of the real world. Yes, they are distracting but no more than talking with a passenger or listening to a talk radio station show in which you are interested.

    If the general public are required to stop to answer calls then I would expect the emergency services to do likewise, they are, after all just people, with no super powers. Their ability to multitask does not increase when they put on a uniform and their eyes are only able to process 12 images per minute just like you or I.

    Brake have done their work now and should be disbanded as further lobbying of the government can only result in quashing the countries productivity.

    A study which ‘proves’ that hands-free use is ‘more dangerous than drink driving’? A survey in which people ‘admit’ to hands-free use? This is keeping someone in a job but I hope our government officials can see through such restrictive studies. There are clearly too many reporters, industry watchdogs and monies floating around, can we please spend it on worthwhile studies, not scaremongering?

  • Allan E Gibbons says...April 24, 2014 (14:12)

    I agree with Julie & Rob – these findings have been around as facts for a long time. Its time people faced up to the fact that a phone whether hands free or not is “a call to action”. There is a perfect solution to the problem that everyone shoulf consider especially the insurers that is a system that has been developed and can be read about at http://www.cu80.co.uk check it out its amazing!

  • John says...April 24, 2014 (14:06)

    Whats Next??!!!! Ban on children in cars? Ban radios, cds, sat navs, family, friends, CB radio systems?

    All of them are a distraction take children for example they can be more of a problem than a conversation on a handfree solution!

    And what about the thousands of business users out there that need communication whilst on the move? Do these people that sit in their offices all day coming up with these ideas live in a bubble? classing it the same as drink driving?

    Leave it alone the law that is in place at the moment has reduced accidents and unfortunately there will always be some regardless of what you try and do, look at other problems that really do need to be solved!

  • R Smythe says...April 24, 2014 (13:58)

    Its great isn’t it all these people who have nothing to do but look at figures and statistics, bet not one of these people sees mobile communications as being part of their working lives, I agree with other comments about people in cars or vehicles with you where will it all stop. What about parents with kids battling in the rear seats, do we lock them in the boot. What about Satnavs I have a factory one built into my 2013 VW CC and if I hadn’t had 30 years of driving experience I know a few occasions where I would have been booked for being sent the wrong way, also a Satnav is both a visual and audible device, how may people do you see at junctions gawping at their Tom Tom and dithering over which way to go, I know people who will believe their satnav over a road sign also you don’t look at a phone when hands free. So hey ban satnavs as well, what about young kids wearing hoodies who drive with the hood up, how does that affect peripheral vision lets ban them as well. Who,s going to police all this, how the hell is anyone going to be able to book you or detect you on the move if you are talking hands free especially if there are two people in the car. Its education and training that is needed not nanny state rules. Technology could overcome these issues why not invent a device that cuts a phone out in a car if it not Bluetooth connected, soon cars will have electronics that will govern the top speed it can travel at the speed limit area its in, and finally what about manufacturers of cars like Volvo who install self parking, automatic brake distance control, lane change control and all the other gizmos that totally detach the driver from his or her responsibility to ensure all is safe cant wait for the legal claims on these systems when they fail or are on 10 year old cars that are not maintained. Personally I would be more worried about Russia and especially the recent comments from China about building 50+ aircraft carriers saying that eventually the USA WILL respect our sovereignty.

  • Jonedom says...April 24, 2014 (13:58)

    God I still see loads of people holding phones when driving or parking using one hand. Yes it is distracting using hands free but so is smoking changing radio stations or CD or having an enthusiastic passenger. What next banning sex??? Some people simply can not talk and drive at the same time so it is dangerous. Others are quite confident in doing both. Some people drive in the middle lane of a 3 lane road, no inkling on what’s happening around them, is this not worth looking at first…

  • T McRae says...April 24, 2014 (13:28)

    Using a hand free kit to talk on the phone is no different to listening to the radio or talking to passengers. I often need to answer the phone while driving for updates on delivery details, road conditions on my route, etc, if I had to pull over every time to take a call not only would this been extremely frustrating for me increasing my stress levels behind the wheel but there would be hundreds of cars stationary on the side of roads creating hazards for other drivers. For people who drive long distances a conversation on a hands free kit is a welcome refresher and often increases your attention or the road. Sitting in silence with no conversation either on a phone or with a passenger and no radio will be extremely dull and I would expect drivers attention to wonder much more in this situation.

  • R Watkins says...April 24, 2014 (12:39)

    I agree that texting and using a phone without hands free is dangerous, but if you ban hands free, then are you going to ban talking to passenger’s in the car as well because that is as much a distracting as using a hands free. Why not go the whole way and ban all in car entertainment, radio’s i pod’s anything that can divert the driver’s attention. If these people have their way we will all be driving alone in vehicles in total silence.

  • gordon says...April 24, 2014 (12:13)

    I personally believe that using your handsfree system while driving is just as safe or dangerous as talking to a passenger or playing with your radio. As long as you are only pressing the button to answer a call there is no further risk. As for any further use of your phone. Then yes the ban in place is already sufficient.

    As a 24hr callout engineer with calls coming in at random occasions from withheld numbers that you can’t phone back for serious issues then a blanket ban would be catastrophic in certain situations. Also would this ban prevent emergency services from taking calls on their systems?
    What would be the next stage? Drivers inside sealed cubicles unable to interact with anything or anyone whilst driving?!