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

Brake supports proposed penalty point increase for risky mobile phone use, 16/07/2014
Brake welcomes increase in fines for motorway speeding and phone use at the wheel, 11/06/2014
Risky hands-free calls at the wheel on the rise, as confusion about dangers persists, 22/04/2014
Drivers urged to take time out to enjoy lunch, as six in ten admit eating at the wheel, 20/02/2014
Campaign appeals to drivers to tune in to road safety and turn off their phones, 18/11/2013
Families and community groups urged to register and start planning for Road Safety Week, 26/06/2013
Educators urged to register and start planning for Road Safety Week 2013, 26/06/2013
Half of drivers risk lives for sake of a call, according to Brake and Direct Line survey, 29/03/2012
Don't text and drive campaign on Flickr, 29/03/2012
Mobile phone offences on the increase, according to police data, 12/11/2011
Mobile phone addiction threatens safety, with three in 10 texting at wheel, 28/09/2011
Brake holds workshop on eliminating driver distractions, 20/04/2011
World Health Organisation speaks out against hand-held phone use when driving, 18/04/2011
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