MPs call for ban on hands-free phone use

(Image credit: Google)

MPs have called for hands-free mobile use to be banned in England and Wales, arguing that it distracts drivers and causes accidents.

The use of a handheld mobile phone while in control of a vehicle was outlawed in 2003 and applies even when stationary. However the use of hands free headsets and speakers is permitted, while many cars boast in-built capabilities.

The Commons Transport Select Committee said that the use of any mobile phone – whether handheld or not – was unsafe as the risks resulted from the cognitive distraction of the device rather than the physical act of holding a phone.

Hands free phone

Although some might argue that listening to a radio or a conversation with a passenger is also a distraction, experts told the committee that there was a “hierarchy” of distractions. The use of a mobile phone is near the top as it requires drivers to respond, limiting the cognitive capability of the brain and the visual perception required to respond to hazards.

“Being at the UK legal limit for alcohol blood level is essentially the same amount of distraction, if not slightly less, than having a hands-free call,” Dr Shaun Helman told the committee, which was also told that drivers using a phone of any sort were four times more likely to be involved in a collision.

A public consultation on the proposal will be published at the end of 2019 and the implications for both users who rely on their devices while driving and the industry would be significant if the rules were to change.

Both Apple and Google have targeted drivers with in-car capabilities, with many manufacturers supporting iOS CarPlay and Android Auto. Both platforms allow users to link their smartphones to their car so they can access media applications, use navigation services, and make hands-free calls.

Steve McCaskill is TechRadar Pro's resident mobile industry expert, covering all aspects of the UK and global news, from operators to service providers and everything in between. He is a former editor of Silicon UK and journalist with over a decade's experience in the technology industry, writing about technology, in particular, telecoms, mobile and sports tech, sports, video games and media.