Department for Transport (DfT) plans to close a technical gap in the current mobile phone law should be an opportunity to look at distracted driving more widely, according to the Transport Research Laboratory (TRL).

The proposed modification would ensure that, when a driver chooses to handle a mobile phone while driving, for any purpose, they would be committing a criminal offence. Currently the law covers interactive communication functions but not standalone functions.

But TRL says a focus on banning hand-held device use could “legitimise the use of other interaction modes with mobile devices or in-vehicle alternatives, many of which are still fraught with danger.”

“The focus on ‘hand-held’ devices misses the point – drivers’ eyes and minds must be on the road and it is not enough to only ensure that their hands are on the steering wheel,” said Shaun Helman, Chief Scientist at TRL.