U.K. law states that it is illegal to hold a phone or sat nav while you are driving or riding a motorbike. Drivers therefore often turn to the use of hands-free access such as a built-in sat-nav, voice enabled technology or a dashboard mount to use their phone or sat nav. Whilst using these items is not illegal, there are still major questions marks over the safety of such technology.
What’s the law?
The law currently states that drivers must remain in full control of their vehicle at all times. The police can stop you if they think you not in control of your vehicle, such as being distracted by adjusting your directions on a sat-nav or by a text on your phone. If caught, you can be prosecuted and face up to 6 penalty points and a £200 fine; you can even be banned from driving if the case is taken to court. However, having this technology in your car is not currently illegal, as long as police deem that it isn’t distracting you or preventing safe driving.
Should the law be stricter?
Some MPs have offered strong opposition against the use of hands-free technology in cars, arguing in 2019, that the current laws do not offer enough protection for drivers on the road. According to the Commons Transport Select Committee, the use of technology such as built-in sat-nav and dashboards mounts creates “the same risks of collision” as the use of hand-held phones, which were banned in 2003.
The report explains how “43 people were killed and a further 135 were seriously injured in 2017 in road traffic collisions where a driver using a mobile phone was a contributory factor in the crash”. These statistics beg the question as to whether or not such technology should be enabled on the road. As a result, some groups such as the Transport Committee have argued for a tightening on the laws regarding hands-free, including stricter punishments for those caught and increased awareness on the risks of using this technology.
What will happen in the future?
Although some groups have called for an outright ban, there are currently no government plans in place that suggest this will happen. At the moment, the use of hands-free is not illegal, as long as the individual is not distracted by this usage. Safe-driving groups continue to urge drivers to be careful when driving and ensure that do-not-disturb modes on their smart technology prevent any type of distraction.
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