At present, it is an offence to use a hand-held mobile phone or other hand-held device while driving, when that device is making or receiving a call or performing any other interactive communication function.
There is currently no law against using a hands-free phone behind the wheel but if someone drives poorly because they are distracted by a hands-free phone conversation, the police can take enforcement action for failing to have proper control of the vehicle. However, the lack of specific legislation means that some members of the public assume that using a hands-free phone behind the wheel is therefore both acceptable and safe.
Brake advocates for hands-free phone use behind the wheel to be banned and placed on the same legal footing as the use of a hand-held phone.
Using a mobile phone or other device while driving impairs a person’s ability to drive safely and makes a road traffic collision more likely. This is true whether a device is hand-held or being used hands-free. ITransport Select Committee, 2019
How close are we to banning hands-free phone use when driving?
The Transport Select Committee conducted an inquiry into driving whilst using a mobile phone in 2019. One of the recommendations of the inquiry was for:"...the Government to explore options for extending the ban on driving while using a hand-held mobile phone or other device to hands-free devices. This should consider the evidence of the risks involved, the consequences of a ban, and the practicalities of enforcing it.". The Government response to this recommendation was somewhat vague, stating:
"The Government acknowledges the risks associated with the use of hands-free mobile phones while driving... However, despite those risks, there are many difficulties associated with a potential ban on hands-free use, including enforcement which would be hugely problematic... The Government would want to examine existing evidence about the risks of hands-free use; consider what a ban on hands-free would actually look like in practice and how it could be expressed in legal terms; make some initial assumptions about the likely road safety benefits; identify the sectors that would be most severely affected by a ban; make some initial assumptions about the likely costs to both those sectors and wider business; and decide whether, and on what basis, there should be any exemptions from a general ban. This work would take time, and it is important to focus in the short term on handheld mobile phone use."