A group of MPs is calling for drivers to be banned from using hands-free mobile phones in England and Wales.
While it has been illegal to use a handheld phone at the wheel since 2003, using a hands-free device creates “the same risks of collision”, the Commons Transport Select Committee has warned.
An expert told the committee that taking a hands-free phone call caused “essentially the same” amount of distraction as being at the legal limit for alcohol blood level in England and Wales.
There were 773 casualties on Britain’s roads in 2017, including 43 deaths and 135 serious injuries, in crashes where a driver using any kind of mobile was a contributory factor, the committee said in a report.
While the number of people killed or seriously injured in such incidents has increased since 2011, the rate of enforcement regarding phone use has fallen by more than two-thirds over the same period, the report added.
Neil Greig, IAM RoadSmart director of policy and research, said: “IAM RoadSmart strongly welcomed the House of Commons Transport Committee report as it fully confirms what we have known for some time – multi tasking is a myth and any form of smartphone use at the wheel is distracting.
“Clarifying the law so that any use of a phone that involves holding it or placing in the driver’s lap is made illegal should be a top government priority.
“It doesn’t matter if it’s for music selection or social media updates, it all increases risk behind the wheel particularly for new drivers.
“New laws and tougher penalties are welcome but will only work if the fear of being caught is increased.
“This can be done through more high-profile policing but could also given an immediate boost by issuing clear guidelines for the use of mobile speed cameras to prosecute any driver they spot with a phone to their ear.
A Department for Transport spokeswoman said: “While mobile phones are a vital part of modern life and business, drivers must always use them safely and responsibly.
“Being distracted by a mobile phone while driving is dangerous and puts people’s lives at risk.
“The law is clear that anyone driving dangerously is committing a criminal offence.”