If you are caught using your mobile for calling or texting while behind the wheel you can be fined up to one hundred pounds and will receive points on your licence. This is one of the reasons that so many drivers choose to use hands-free kits while on the road, however you can still be penalised for dangerous driving should a police officer believe it is distracting you
Since the introduction of the hands-free kit there has been an ongoing debate as to whether they are actually safer than handheld phones, with many arguing that being on the phone hands-free or otherwise distracts a person from driving. This is one of the reasons that the road safety charity Brake has called for a ban on hands-free kits as well as an increasing the fine for those caught using their mobiles while behind the wheel.
This week is officially Road Safety Week, and to mark the occasion Brake have released data suggesting that even with hands-free kits most drivers are distracted on the road and are calling upon MPs to introduce stricter rules. As part of their campaign, the charity is calling for all drivers to switch off their mobile phones while driving, and for others to refuse to speak to someone on the phone if they know they are behind the wheel.
Brake also want people to sign a pledge stating that they will remain vigilant while driving at all times, as well as promote the campaign to their friends, family and even employers or schools. Discussing the issue, deputy chief executive of Brake, Julie Townsend, said: “We’re living in an age when being constantly connected is the norm. More and more of us have smartphones, and find it hard to switch off, even for a minute.
“While there are enormous benefits to this new technology, it’s also posing dangerous temptations to drivers to divert their concentration away from the critical task at hand, often putting our most vulnerable road users in danger. Many people who wouldn’t dream of drink-driving are succumbing to using their phone and other distractions while driving, oblivious that the effect can be similar and the consequences just as horrific.”
However, a spokesman for the Department for Transport supported the government’s current legislation, and said: “The government is determined that police have the powers they need to tackle any form of dangerous driving, including anyone using a mobile phone at the wheel. That is why this year the fixed penalty for this offence was increased to £100 and carries three penalty points.
“Police can stop and arrest any driver if they believe they are not in charge of their vehicle, and this includes if the driver is using a hands-free mobile device. There are no plans to change the law around the use of hands-free devices but all penalties are kept under review to ensure they are appropriate.”
Peter Rodger from the Institute of Advanced Motorists also claimed that it would be better for there to be a wider cultural recognition that driving while using a mobile phone is morally wrong, instead of introducing stricture legislation. He added: “We tend to behave in the way everyone around us expects us to and if we can create an environment in which people don’t expect that to happen, that is more likely to control how us, as individuals, actually behave.”
Even with the publication of Brake’s research, the government have stated that they have no plans to ban hands-free kits, which could be linked to some of the criticisms towards Brake’s opinions that eating, drinking or smoking while driving should also be banned. Some drivers are also worried that even listening to the radio or talking to a passenger would also be banned under Brake’s rules.
There is also the issue that car insurance providers would have to alter their policies in order to become void if a driver is caught eating, drinking, smoking or using a hands-free kit behind the car, and enforcing these rules would also place a strain on the police. While staying safe on the road should always be of the utmost importance to all drivers, some are concerned that increasingly harsh legislation could encroach upon their human rights.