People wanting to avoid picking up three points for using a hand-held mobile phone while driving should not be deceived into thinking hands-free kits are safe to use at the wheel, RoSPA warned today.
Advertisements from some companies have implied that by switching to hands-free devices people can get around the stiffer penalties for using a hand-held phone being introduced on Tuesday (Feb 27).
Research has shown that driving using a mobile phone - whether hand-held or hands-free - makes you four times more likely to crash.
Kevin Clinton, Head of Road Safety at the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, said: "When motorists use any type of mobile phone they become increasingly distracted by the telephone conversation and pay less and less attention to their driving. They tailgate, wander about on the road and vary their speed - all things which make them more likely to crash.
"We welcome the doubling of the fine to £60 for using a hand-held phone while driving, but are particularly pleased that offenders will now get three points on their licences. That threat, which could eventually lead to them being banned, is likely to persuade more people to kick the habit of phoning when on the road.
"But even though there is no specific offence relating to hands-free phones, police can check telephone records in careless driving and dangerous driving cases and use them as evidence to show someone has been distracted. It can lead to tougher sentencing because using a mobile phone while driving is likely to be viewed as an 'aggravating circumstance' by the courts.
"It is wrong for anyone to suggest that using a hands-free phone while driving is safe."
RoSPA would like employers to make it part of their health and safety policies that using any type of mobile phone while driving on company business should be a disciplinary offence. Guidance from the Health and Safety Executive makes it clear that employers have a duty under health and safety law to manage the risks faced by their employees on the road. And one of the biggest risks they face is when using mobile phones while at the wheel.