A substantial body of research shows that using a hand-held or hands-free mobile phone while driving is a significant distraction, and substantially increases the risk of the driver crashing.
Drivers who use a mobile phone, whether hand-held or hands-free:
- are much less aware of what’s happening on the road around them
- fail to see road signs
- fail to maintain proper lane position and steady speed
- are more likely to ‘tailgate’ the vehicle in front
- react more slowly, take longer to brake and longer to stop
- are more likely to enter unsafe gaps in traffic
- feel more stressed and frustrated.
They are also four times more likely to crash, injuring or killing themselves and other people.
Using a hands-free phone while driving does not significantly reduce the risks because the problems are caused mainly by the mental distraction and divided attention of taking part in a phone conversation at the same time as driving.
On 1 December 2003, a law, “The Road Vehicles (Construction and Use) (Amendment) (No. 4) Regulations 2003”, came into force to prohibit drivers using a hand-held mobile phone, or similar device, while driving. It also made it an offence to “cause or permit” a driver to use a hand-held mobile phone while driving, or to use a hand-held mobile phone while supervising a driver who only has a provisional licence.
The penalties were initially a fixed penalty of £30 or a fine of up to £1,000 if the offender goes to court (£2,500 for drivers of goods vehicles or passenger carrying vehicles with 9 or more passenger seats). From 27th February 2007, the penalty for using a hand-held mobile phone whilst driving increased to £60 and three penalty points added to the drivers’ licence.