HandsFREE is dangerous say police and road safety partners

You could be be best driver in the known universe, but you don't have the superpower to share your attention while driving

Warwickshire Road Safety Partnership is asking the public to think about whether they really need to use a handsfree mobile phone whilst driving because national research has found that handsfree phone use is just as distracting and dangerous as handheld phone use whilst driving. 

Research by The Open University and Roads Policing Academic Network, funded by the Road Safety Trust, has found that a driver using a handheld or a handsfree phone is four times more likely to be involved in a collision than an undistracted driver, can look AT hazards but fail to actually SEE them, can take up to a second longer to react to hazards, and is far less likely to notice hazards even if they happen right in front of them.

Although you may think this doesn’t apply to you, this is true of all drivers because it’s about how your brain works and not your hands.  Removing the need to hold or look at your phone doesn’t reduce the mental demand on your brain.  Phone use causes mental distraction and when you’re distracted you make errors.  It’s hard to concentrate on two things at the same time.  In reality we switch back and forth in between tasks. Our brain fills in the gaps for us so our experience is that we’ve maintained both tasks well.  But we haven’t. 

This is even more concerning when we consider young drivers who have only just passed their test and need to always keep their full attention on the roads whilst they gain more driving experience. 

Using a handheld phone whilst driving carries a £200 fine and 6 points on your licence. 

For young drivers this has huge implications because if you gain 6 points on your licence in the first 2 years of passing your test you will lose your licence and have to take both your written and driven test all over again.  Just think about the implications. This could mean you have a car you cannot use, friends you cannot give lifts to, as well as losing your independence.

Using a handheld mobile phone is illegal for drivers and those supervising learner drivers.  The offence includes illuminating the screen, checking the time, checking notifications; unlocking the device; making, receiving, or rejecting a telephone or internet based call; sending, receiving or uploading oral or written content; sending, receiving or uploading a photo or video; utilising camera, video, or sound recording functionality; drafting any text; accessing any stored data such as documents, books, audio files, photos, videos, films, playlists, notes or messages; accessing an application; and accessing the internet.

The offence is also committed if the vehicle is stationary in traffic with the engine running.

Officers can also stop you for not being in proper control of your vehicle, which carries a £100 fine and 3 points on your licence.

Sergeant Chris McSharry said “Although handsfree mobile phone use whilst driving is legal, officers will not be promoting it as a safe alternative during the National Police Chief’s Council mobile phone operation between 19 February 2024 – 10 March.  Instead we will be using opportunities to help educate drivers that even handsfree mobile phone use whilst driving is distracting and dangerous.“

Please follow these tips to be a better driver

  • Turn your mobile phone off before you drive and put it out of reach to avoid temptation
  • Keep the volume down on your phone and set the music playing before you set off
  • Set the sat nav destination before leaving. Rely more on voice instructions rather than staring at the screen so you keep your eyes on the road
  • Stop to eat and drink. Don’t snack at the wheel
  • Park up to check or to use your mobile phone.
  • Talk later. Save in depth conversations for when the journey is over.
  • Passengers please don’t do anything that could distract the driver even for a moment
  • Tell work, friends and family that you will check your phone regularly, but you will not use your mobile phone to respond to them whilst driving because you need to concentrate on driving
  • Remember how important you are. Don’t let a text, a status update, a share, a meme be the one thing that could potentially destroy your world (and possibly someone else’s).

The public can play a part too in improving road safety by using Op Snap to report and submit digital footage showing potential moving traffic offences such as using a mobile phone while driving.  For more information please visit https://www.warwickshire.police.uk/operation-snap

Please follow the campaign on social media on Facebook @WarwickshireRoadSafety and Twitter @WarksRoadSafety

Notes for editors

Visit https://www.gov.uk/using-mobile-phones-when-driving-the-law for more information

The Transport Select Committee, Roadcraft: The Police Driver’s Handbook and Motorcycle Roadcraft: The Police Rider’s Handbook and National Highways ‘Driving for Better Business ‘ have all accepted the research findings and advise against handsfree phone use.