Phone smart

No call or message is worth a life. The distraction of driving on a phone (either held or hands-free) has been shown to be worse than drinking certain amounts of alcohol. Driver reaction times are 30% slower on a hands-free phone than driving with a blood alcohol level of 80mg alcohol per 100ml blood (the current limit in England and Wales), and nearly 50% slower than a driver not on a phone [1]. Drivers on any phone are four times more likely to be in a crash that causes injury.[2] They have slower reaction times and difficulty controlling speed and lane position [3]. 
 
Research shows hands-free calls cause almost the same level of risk as hand-held [4]. Brain scanning has confirmed speaking on a hands-free phone makes you less alert and less visually attentive [5]. Laws that only ban hand-held phones mean drivers switch to hands-free phones, so are still distracted [6]. A Brake and Direct Line survey found that, following the UK’s introduction of a ban on using hand-held phones at the wheel in 2003, the proportion of UK drivers using hand-held mobile phones between 2006 and 2014 dropped from 36% to 13%, but those using hands-free rose from 22% to 32% [7].
 
Messaging, browsing, using apps, or social networking is a huge distraction, as it takes mind, eyes and hands off the road. Messaging drivers have 35% slower reaction times and poor lane control [8] and one large-scale study found they were 23 times more likely to crash than an attentive driver [9]. About half drivers aged 25-34 in a Brake and Direct Line survey admit to messaging, using apps and browsing at the wheel.[10] 
 
In the UK, experts have warned of increasing levels of smartphone addiction by users who are unable to go without checking their phone for short periods or through the night [11]. Even the sound of a mobile phone ringing has been found to cause distraction and increase crash risk [12]. Read more driver distraction facts.

What we need 

Brake is calling on government to: 

  • ban hands-free phones at the wheel
  • regulate against use of in-built car 'infotainment' screens
  • invest in visible, effective and tough enforcement and punishment of people who talk, read and write at the wheel 
Take action

Campaign news

 
End notes

[1] Using a hands-free mobile whilst driving can be more dangerous than drink driving, Transport Research Laboratory, 2009

[2] Role of mobile phones in motor vehicle crashes resulting in hospital attendance: a case-crossover study, University of Western Australia, 2005

[3] Using a hands-free mobile whilst driving can be more dangerous than drink driving, Transport Research Laboratory, 2009

[4] Using a hands-free mobile whilst driving can be more dangerous than drink driving, Transport Research Laboratory, 2009

[5] Speaking on a hands-free phone while driving makes you less alert and less attentive, University of Toronto, 2013 

[6] Handheld cell phone laws and collision claim frequencies, Highway Loss Data Institute, 2010

[7] Driven to distraction: mobile phones, Brake and Direct Line, 2014 

[8] The effect of text messaging on driver behaviour: a simulator study, Transport Research Laboratory, 2008

[9] Driver Distraction in Commercial Motor Vehicle Operations, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, 2009

[10] Brake and Direct Line, Risky Business, Report 3, section 2, Smart Phones, 2016

[11] The Communications Market 2011, Ofcom, 2011

[12] Influence of personal mobile phone ringing and usual intention to answer on driver error, Aston University, 2012