Hands-Free. Not as safe as you think.

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Conor Johnstone

Drivers using hands-free are equally as distracted when driving, a study reveals.

Researchers at The University of Sussex found that hands-free kits are no safer than those who use their phones as normal, despite the law condoning – and encouraging – the use of hands-free kits in cars. The study calls for all phones, including hands-free kits, to be banned from cars. Of course, that would require action from parliament to implement a new law prohibiting this – which we can’t see happening any time in the near future.

The study involved 20 male and 40 female participants who took part in video tests while sitting in a car seat behind a steering wheel.

The study also revealed that not all conversations are dangerous. It all depends on the ‘type’ of conversation the driver is having. Researchers founds that drivers who were asked to discuss an object – and therefore visualise it – reacted just over a second slower to realistic driving hazards than those who were not using a mobile phone. Perhaps more shocking is that drivers using hands-free kits detected and reacted to less than half as many hazards. Dr Graham Hole, senior lecturer at the University of Sussex, has explained that a second may not sound like much, “but at 30mph you’re travelling at 13 metres per second. You require a stopping distance equal to three-and-a-quarter Ford Fiestas.”

Dr Graham Hole has explained that when a driver is demanded to imagine an image, their mind begins to compete with the visual imagery in front of them, such as a cyclist, for example.

Is it illegal to use a hands-free kit whilst driving?

Under present law it is not illegal to make a telephone call whilst using a hands-free device, providing you are not distracted by it. However, many hands-free devices do require the user to touch the phone before accepting or making a call. The fact that you were operating a device, or talking into it whilst driving, may amount to a higher degree of culpability if you were involved in a serious collision. It can, in some circumstances, amount to dangerous driving (which can carry a custodial sentence).

The CPS will consider the severity of incident and the likelihood of a conviction before laying charges.  The SGC Definitive Guideline states that “driving whilst avoidably and dangerously distracted such as talking to and looking at a passenger, selecting and lighting a cigarette or by adjusting the controls of electronic equipment such as a radio, hands-free mobile phone or satellite navigation equipment” are likely to be characterised as dangerous driving.

Road Traffic Offences – Guidance on Charging Offences arising from Driving Incidents

If you have been charged with an offence involving a mobile phone, and would like to consider your options, please call our team of specialists on 0151 244 8020. You can also find more information on our dedicated Speeding offences website –

University of Sussex – Study Findings

M.A.J. Law

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Conor Johnstone

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