New research from psychologists at the University of Sussex has found driving while talking on a hands-free phone can be just as distracting as talking on a hand-held mobile.
As a result, road safety charity Brake has renewed its call for the government to ban all mobile phone use when driving.
Dr Graham Hole, senior lecturer in psychology at the University of Sussex, said: “A popular misconception is that using a mobile phone while driving is safe as long as the driver uses a hands-free phone. Our research shows this is not the case. Hands-free can be equally distracting. The only ‘safe’ phone in a car is one that's switched off.”
Lucy Amos, research advisor for Brake, said: “Distracted driving is a major cause behind road crashes; pulling the drivers’ attention away from the road and its potential hazards, potentially leading to fatal outcomes.
“This new study is only the latest of many which adds weight to extending the existing legislation to cover all mobile phone use within a vehicle, not just the use of hand-held mobile devices. We call on the government to take action and remove the clear and present danger of mobile phones on our roads.”
Previous research has estimated that up to 22% of crashes could be caused by some kind of distraction and drivers who perform a secondary task at the wheel, like using a mobile, are up to three times more likely to crash. Additionally, driver reaction times are calculated to be 30% slower while using 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 driving under normal conditions.