Yes – Nick Lloyd – Acting Head of Road Safety, RoSPA

The dangers of using handheld mobile phones behind the wheel are obvious – a driver takes their eyes off the road to check a message, dial a number or check social media, unaware of what’s happening around them. And it’s a fact that although the dangers are not immediately identifiable, use of hands-free phones can be just as distracting. All of the available research tells us this, and the most recently available, from The Open University and the University of Sussex released last year, revealed drivers’ reaction times are on average 1.6 seconds slower than someone not distracted by a phone conversation. This means they will take an extra 21.46 metres – the length of five Ford Fiestas – to stop when travelling at 30mph. The reason it wasn’t made illegal at the same time as handheld mobiles is a simple matter of ability to enforce the law – it’s harder to spot someone using hands-free. However, RoSPA would like to see it banned, with increased publicity to highlight the dangers of using hands-free kits, making it clear that any phone use behind the wheel is dangerous. There’s no call worth risking other people’s lives. Even if your business is driving, let it go to voicemail – it’s safe, and it’s great PR!

No – Edmund King  – President , Automobile Association

Generally, it is best practice for a driver never to use a phone when driving. However, there are occasions when a short, hands-free, voice-activated call may acually enhance the safety of the driver and other road users. Sometimes, a short call to let someone know you are running late can have road safety benefits as it alleviates stress or the temptation to speed, allowing drivers to focus on the road. For example, if you are able to let your colleagues or clients know you are running late for a meeting, it means that once the call is made you can focus your attention on driving and stop trying to rush to get to the meeting quicker. But drivers need to be aware that although it’s not an offence to be seen using a hands-free phone, if you’re deemed not to be in control of a vehicle while using a hands-free phone you can be prosecuted for that offence. The penalties for being ‘not in proper control’ are: £100 fine and 3 points, and up to £1,000 (£2,500 if you were driving a bus or a goods vehicle) if it goes to court. While there may be occasions for drivers to safely make short calls on hands-free mobiles, we would advise them to stop at a safe place if they need to make or receive long or complex calls.