New Zealand charity support push to ban hands-free phones while driving

A New Zealand charity is supporting a push in the UK to ban the use of hands-free cellphones while driving.

Research shows a driver is three times more likely to crash while taking a hands-free call compared to talking to a passenger.

It's a distraction causing serious injury here, too. Between 2010 and 2018, cellphones were a factor in 85 serious injury crashes - and 39 fatal crashes.

That's despite a 2009 ban on drivers using hand-held phones - now there's a call for hands-free phones to be banned too.

"From our point of view both using handheld or hands-free are a distraction," Caroline Perry, spokesperson for road safety charity Brake, says.

Research supports her view. By using a simulator, researchers in England found that the risk of a driver crashing dramatically increases while on a hands-free phone call, in comparison to the risk of crashing while talking to a passenger.

"The big difference is I can see where we are, I can see what is facing you on the road and if I see something interesting happening up ahead - I will wait before I say something," says University of Nottingham expert Dr Peter Chapman.

Such research has driven the UK government to consider a hands-free phone ban and New Zealand charity Brake thinks we should follow suit.

"We would support a ban on hands-free mobile use because the research shows it's the call that is the distraction," Perry says.

The Government says it's not currently looking at such a ban - but points to the Transport Ministry's work around driver distraction.

It encourages people to switch their phones off or use the 'do not disturb mode' while driving.

Some companies here have taken the initiative to impose their own bans.

Johnson Controls has 440 drivers delivering building products around the country - and banned all cellphone use ten years ago.

"Since then we've seen a year on year reduction, and in the last two years we've seen about a 60 percent reduction in our at-fault vehicle accident rate," says EHD lead Fauzia Ali.

More evidence that driving hands free is not risk free.