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Hands-free is not a safe alternative, says Brake

According to a new Brake and Direct Line survey, although the use of hand-held phones by drivers has dropped – down from 54% in 2006 to 45%, hands-free use has risen to 38% from 22% in 2006

According to the survey, three in ten (32%) don't know that talking on a hands-free phone is just as dangerous as talking on a hand-held. Research shows the call itself is the main distraction, and hands-free calls cause almost the same level of risk

Studies have also found that drivers who perform complex secondary tasks at the wheel increase their crash risk dramatically, with those speaking on phones, hands-free or hand-held, four times more likely to be in a crash that injures.

Brake and Direct Line's survey also found that texting at the wheel is a widespread menace, with three in 10 of all drivers (30%) admitting sending or reading messages while driving, and an even higher proportion of young drivers (age 18-24) – more than four in 10 (44%) – doing so. Smartphone apps are an additional threat, with one in eight (12%) drivers using them at the wheel, up from less than one in 10 (9%) in 2006.

Brake is continuing its calls for a total ban on mobile phone use at the wheel, to prevent hundreds of senseless crashes, deaths and injuries every year, and the prioritisation of traffic policing by government to help enforce it.

Julie Townsend, deputy chief executive, Brake, said: ‘It is shocking that, ten years after the ban, one in eight drivers continues to flout the law and put lives in danger by using a hand-held mobile at the wheel. Just as worrying is the widespread belief that using a hands-free kit is a safe alternative. Don't kid yourself: it's not. Using a hands-free phone while driving can end and ruin lives just as surely as using a phone hand-held, and no phone call or text is worth a life. The government needs to act now to stop this risky behaviour. We all need to take responsibility and put our phones safely out of reach and earshot while behind the wheel, and refuse to speak on the phone to others who are driving.’

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Natalie Middleton

Natalie has worked as a fleet journalist for 16 years, previously as assistant editor on the former Company Car magazine before joining Fleet World in 2006. Prior to this, she worked on a range of B2B titles, including Insurance Age and Insurance Day. As Business Editor, Natalie ensures the group websites and newsletters are updated with the latest news.