Road Safety News

Brake renews call for ban on hands-free kits

Tuesday 22nd April 2014


Brake has renewed its call for hands-free kits to be banned following a survey in which 45% of respondents admitted to using a mobile phone when driving.

In a similar survey in 2006, 54% of respondents admitted to using a mobile phone while driving, so the number this time round has reduced by 9%.

Other comparisons between the two surveys indicate that while hand-held use has dropped to 13% from 36% in 2006, the use of hands-free kits has risen to 38% from 22%.

Brake says that the increase in use of hands free kits is probably “linked to the mistaken belief that it is a safe alternative”.

Brake believes that the lack of a total ban has left many drivers unaware that using a hands-free mobile at the wheel is “just as risky as using a hand-held”.  The charity says that it is “the distraction of the conversation that causes the danger”.

Brake's survey also found that 30% of respondents admitted to texting while driving, which rose to 44% among younger respondents aged 18-24 years.

Brake is calling for a total ban on mobile phone use at the wheel.

Julie Townsend, deputy chief executive, Brake, said: "It is shocking that, 10 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."


Comment on this story
Report a reader comment

What's your view - comment on this story:

I confirm that I have read and accept the moderation policy and house rules relating to comments posted on this website.
Your comment:
Your name and location:
Your email:

I'm glad someone else has also noticed the worrying habit of some drivers turning to face their passengers when talking to them. It's the same, as Rod pointed out, when TV presenters turn sideways to talk to the camera whilst driving. Why? Are they so short of time that they have to do part of the programme en route?
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

Agree (0) | Disagree (0)

From the statement that TRL could identify little difference in the effect on driving from hand held or hands free, I would immediately question how this could possibly come about. One needs two hands when driving under two distinct circumstances; both hands on the wheel when negotiating junctions; one hand off the wheel to change gear whilst the other on the wheel. A hand held mobile would seriously hinder either operation, whereas a hands free would allow both.

The distraction through conversation is less than that from a passenger, with whom some drivers seem unable to converse without looking into their eyes. There are things more dangerous, but that has to be one of the worst.
Derek Reynolds, Salop.

Agree (3) | Disagree (0)

"Research by TRL identified little difference in the effect on driving from hand held or hands free phones".

Is there not a more obvious difference in risk? i.e driving with two hands 'free' instead of one? It's possible to drive some vehicles one-handed, but the majority on the roads can't be. I always thought that was the main reason for banning 'phone use in the first place.
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

Agree (1) | Disagree (4)

Whilst generally supportive of Brake this seems misguided. Whilst I am sure that the studies have shown that hands free use of a mobile phone is distracting it is less so that hand held and texting. The move from hand held to hands free may not be a case of perceived risk (most people using a hand held phone, or eating or combing their hair thinks that the risk is “notional”) but from illegal to legal. There are distractions a lot of the time and drivers need to manage them including how they react to passengers or the radio. In fact I recall that when car radios where becoming more common there was a move to ban them but the same comments about banning passengers from speaking was made at the time.
Mark, Caerphilly

Agree (4) | Disagree (3)

Research by TRL identified little difference in the effect on driving from hand held or hands free phones. The main issue is the cognitive demand that both make on the driver i.e. how much conscious thought is taken up by the conversation. This is significantly greater than a conversation with a passenger because the passenger is able to respond to circumstances and non-verbal signs from the driver, whereas someone on a phone is not.
We need to look at each individual feature and how it affects a driver’s concentration on their main task of driving and then consider the cumulative effect of the number of things a driver may operate. Are car manufacturers regularly reviewing the cumulative impact on driver workload, especially the increasing use of touch screen controls? The driver looks away from the road to find, focus on, process and then act on each of these e.g. to change channels on the car radio? Texting makes similar demands – perhaps TRL or Thatcham are looking into these for us?
Honor Byford, Chair, Road Safety GB

Agree (7) | Disagree (0)

Bobbio has a point. I have driven half cabs in service, the only communication with your fellow crew member or passengers was via the bell. Start, or stop at the next.

Answering phones on the move is a distraction, so are speed cameras, humps in the road, pot holes and too bright lights.

Brake’s consideration that a hands free set is thought to be a “safer” alternative to holding something in the hand is quite correct, it certainly is. But their claim of how many in percentage admit to using a hands free shows no correlation to collisions where such devices are or were being used, so this can be discarded.

Their claim that it is just as risky as using a hand held is therefore somewhat contradictory in their conveyed “thought”. Ultimately such thoughts will lead to a total ban on carrying any passengers who may wish to communicate with the driver, and certainly any children. That might put driving instructors and parents in a difficult position.

I would have thought that the banning of sat-nav devices in vehicles would be a worthier task for them, especially those who fix their small screens in the line of sight on the windscreen. Obscuring the view of the road ahead is significantly more dangerous.
Derek Reynolds, Salop.

Agree (6) | Disagree (0)

Is it any worse a driver having a conversation with a passenger in the car than having that same conversation on the phone? Perhaps drivers should be isolated in cabs like they were in old buses.
Bobbio Chiswell Green

Agree (6) | Disagree (2)

Thanks David
That enables me and others to put your future comments into perspective.
Rod King, 20's Plenty for Us

Agree (5) | Disagree (10)

Why don't Brake call for simply banning the car?
Dave Taylor, Guildford

Agree (9) | Disagree (4)

I would like to see a ban on television companies who feel that they can interview drivers whilst driving. It's particularly inappropriate on programs which purport to be concerned about road safety.
Rod King, 20's Plenty for Us

Agree (15) | Disagree (6)

Our cars and our environment are filled with many things that can and do act as 'distractors' and it is understanding how we manage the distraction task that will eventually lead to a solution to the problem.

Although our brains are configured to multi-task at the subconscious level, high level multi tasking is quite beyond us no matter how much we think to the contrary. However a driving instructor has had a great deal of practice in multi-tasking, so much so that a lot of their actions and observations actually take place at the subconscious level. This leaves them free to manage their student's driving whilst at the same time delivering a stream of instructions and observations without ever compromising safety.

It is only when we are not practiced at doing two or more things at once that the problem rears its ugly head. In such situations a driver has to take a gamble that in the time they are allowing themselves to attend to another task, nothing will go wrong with the primary task. This is a human factors situation called 'frequency gambling' where the driver acknowledges that the last hundred times they took a decision to attend to a distractor nothing went wrong so why should it be any different now? In most situations the frequency gamble pays off which further reinforces the fact that the it will be OK to take the gamble next time as well. It is when the frequency gamble doesn't pay off that we end up blaming the distractor when it is clearly the frequency gamble that is at the root cause of the problem.
Duncan MacKillop, Stratford on Avon

Agree (10) | Disagree (0)

I want to start by making it quite clear that I do not condone the use of a mobile phone whilst driving, whether that be illegally using a hand held device or hand free. In general terms we are a law abiding society and so one might expect the use of phones whilst driving to drop off if it were made law, but we would still have the same problems as we do with those who drink and drive, don't wear a seat belt and speed, which cause far greater problems than the use of the phone. I have noted from newspaper reports an increasing number of prosecutions for the use of such devices following crashes of late, and I just wonder how many of these are through texting and whether a ban in the use of a mobile phone for the purposes of holding a conversation would be replaced by an even greater number of people who would text, which unless something happens is easy to hide but requires drivers to look at an alternative screen than the one they should be looking through. Whilst the risk of using a phone is well documented is there a bigger distraction from the texting operation.

Agree (6) | Disagree (0)