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New phone warning for drivers: legal doesn’t equal safe

Researchers from the University of Keele are reminding drivers that using a phone hands-free at the wheel may be legal, but this doesn’t make it safe.

The call comes as they launch a new compendium that aims to help practitioners design effective methods of deterring mobile phone use among drivers.

The compendium is a result of the 13-month Mobile:Engagedproject, funded by the Road Safety Trust, which worked with a range of projects across the UK to help practitioners to build academic research into their activities, to think critically about their approaches and to explore methods of evaluating their work.

Speaking ahead of today’s launch event at the University of Keele, project leader Dr Helen Wells warned of the pressure on drivers to communicate hands-free at the wheel, simply because the law permits it.

“Research consistently shows that hands-free phone use is no safer than hand-held use, but drivers are pushed towards believing it is a safer alternative,” she said.

“We can’t rely on the law as a guide to what is safe and what is not on this occasion, and we can’t rely on technology either. What you can buy, and what the law says you can do, are not going to keep you safe. That’s down to us as individual road users – to think about what we should be doing, not what we can get away with.”

Dr Wells added that the new compendium would be of benefit to a wide range of people interested in improving the safety of our roads. “As well as sharing good practice between practitioners, we have ensured there is useful information for police officers, road safety officers, technology companies, charities, drama groups, schools… in fact it’s aimed at anyone who is trying to do something about preventing mobile phone use by drivers.

Sally Lines, chief executive of the Road Safety Trust, said she had been pleased at the levels of collaboration and sharing that had taken place to create the compendium. “Thanks to the enthusiastic participation of road safety professionals, researchers and police officers, the Mobile:Engagedproject has produced what we believe will prove a very useful and practical resource,” she said.

“Through the production of the compendium, some great relationships have sprung up across the various sectors that will outlast the project itself.”

For more details about how to apply for Road Safety Trust funding, as well as general information on the Road Safety Trust, please visit

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