The government should consider extending the ban on using mobile phones while driving to cover hands-free calls, a group of MPs has suggested.

According to a report by the House of Commons Transport Select Committee, which is made up of several MPs from different parties, the UK needs tougher restrictions on driving while using a mobile phone and stricter enforcement of the law to improve safety. As part of this, the committee says the powers that be should look into the possibility of banning hands-free phone use.

The report cites evidence that shows using a hands-free phone behind the wheel “creates the same risks of crashing” as a handheld device, while figures from 2017 show there were 773 casualties, including 43 deaths and 135 serious injuries, arising from collisions where a driver using a mobile phone was a contributory factor. As a result, the committee has recommended that the government “explores options” for bans on hands-free phones.

Van driver using hands-free phone while driving

At the same time, the report also recommended improvements to enforcement of existing mobile phone laws. The committee said although enforcement was “essential” to improving safety, the rate of enforcement had “plunged” by more than two-thirds since 2011, and the government should work with police to “boost” enforcement and better utilise available technology.

Similarly, the committee said the 2017 increase in penalties for mobile phone use, which saw fines and penalty points doubled to £200 and six respectively, were still not “commensurate” with the risks involved. The report recommended that the government should review the penalties and consider a further increase to ensure there is a serious deterrent.

Police officer out of car during traffic stop on busy motorway

Lilian Greenwood, the MP for Nottingham South and chair of the House of Commons Transport Select Committee, said more education was needed for drivers, and the country needed to shake off the “misleading impression” that hands-free phones are safe.

“Despite the real risk of catastrophic consequences for themselves, their passengers and other road users, far too many drivers continue to break the law by using hand-held mobile phones,” she said. “If mobile phone use while driving is to become as socially unacceptable as drink driving much more effort needs to go into educating drivers about the risks and consequences of using a phone behind the wheel. Offenders also need to know there is a credible risk of being caught, and that there are serious consequences for being caught.

“There is also a misleading impression that hands-free use is safe. The reality is that any use of a phone distracts from a driver’s ability to pay full attention and the government should consider extending the ban to reflect this. Each death and serious injury which results from a driver using a mobile phone is a tragedy that is entirely avoidable. We need tougher restrictions, better enforcement and more education to make our roads safer for all.”

Man using phone while driving car