In the UK, it's illegal to use a hand-held mobile phone while driving – even if you're stuck in a queue or at traffic lights.
If you're caught using a hand-held device when driving a car or motorbike in the UK, you could receive an automatic fixed penalty notice – usually resulting in a fine of £200 and six points on your driving licence. This can impact your car insurance premium too. So, to avoid expensive fines, many people have turned to hands-free devices.
According to the UK government website, drivers are allowed to use hands-free phones, as well as other in-vehicle devices like sat navs and two-way radios, while driving. But the police can still pull you over if they think you're distracted and not in control of your vehicle.
Now, researchers at the University of Sussex have found driving while talking on a hands-free phone can be just as distracting as talking on a hand-held mobile.
Their research has found conversations can cause the driver to create a mental picture of what they're talking about. For example, when a driver was talking on a hands-free phone and they were asked a simple question like ',where did you leave the blue file?' the driver began to visualise which file was being asked for, 'mentally searched' a remembered room, and even imagined the facial expression of the person they were talking to.
All this visual imagery competed for the mental processing resources the driver needed to understand what was in front of them on the road.
'This can so easily be avoided by all drivers switching off their phones while driving, and only checking messages once they have stopped in a safe place.'