To ask the Secretary of State for Transport
(1) what assessment he has made of the risks of driving while using a hands-free mobile telephone; what research his Department has conducted on the effects on the chance of being in a crash of using a hands-free mobile telephone; and if he will make a statement;
(2) what research he has conducted on the level of mobile telephone usage by motorists while driving according to (a) gender, (b) age, (c) region and (d) type of car owned.
A report prepared for the Department and published in 1997 reviewed the use of mobile phones by drivers. TRL Report 318, "The use of mobile phones while driving: a review" is available from TRL Ltd (www.trl.co.uk).
The Department has not needed to undertake its own further research into the risks of using any mobile phone because research by others adequately covers the subject and confirms that there is little difference in the distraction whether a hand-held or hands-free mobile phone is used. The Department's consistent advice, for example in the Highway code and the THINK Road Safety campaign, has been that mobile phones of any type should not be used while driving.
The research is conveniently summarised in the report of the Independent Expert Group on Mobile Phones "Mobile Phones and Health", published in 2000—see paragraphs 5.201 to 5.214, pages 86 to 90 for a summary of research worldwide—available online at: www.iegmp.org.uk/report/text.htm.
The Direct Line Insurance report published in 2002 (available at http://info.directline.com/xxx/news.nsf/64125738690474fe00256a6f003a151b/bec9c738833c 7fb180256b84002dec5f/$FlLE/Mobile%20Phone%20 Report.pdf) compares the effect on reaction times from the use of mobile phones with the effect of alcohol. The research underlying the Direct Line report is published as TRL Report 547 available from www.trl.co.uk.
Research completed in 2003 for the Department of Health's Mobile Telecommunications and Health Research programme "Conversations in Cars: The Relative Hazards of Mobile Phones" is expected to be published shortly—available from www.trl.co.uk.
Surveys for the Department on the level of mobile phone use are undertaken twice yearly. The most recently published report "Mobile Phone use by drivers, 2004-06"—report Lf2100—can be downloaded from www.trl.co.uk/store/report_list.asp?pid=211. Surveys are not undertaken regionally but surveys sites are considered representative of the full range of conditions on British roads. They do not attempt to include gender, age and type of car because there is no need for such information.