Mobile phone use behind the wheel should be banned entirely, according to the Transport Committee.
In a new report, the group of MPs called on the government to extend the ban on hand-held devices to hands-free ones, stating that “evidence shows that using a hands-free device creates the same risks of crashing”.
It also says that all phone use while driving, irrespective of whether it involves sending or receiving data, should be stopped.
Throughout the UK in 2017, 773 casualties, including 43 deaths and 135 serious injuries, were caused by collisions in which a driver using a mobile phone was a contributory factor. The number of people killed or seriously injured in such incidents has risen steadily since 2011.
The committee also called for tougher enforcement, stating that the rate of prosecutions has plunged by more than two-thirds since 2011. It said the government should work with police to “boost enforcement and make better use of technology”.
The penalty for using a hand-held phone while driving was increased in 2017 to an automatic fixed penalty notice including a £200 fine and six penalty points.
However, the committee said these penalties “still do not appear to be commensurate with the risk created and should be reviewed and potentially increased so that it is clear there are serious consequences to being caught”.
Committee chair Lilian Greenwood MP said: “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.
“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.”