Drivers could be banned from using hands-free mobile phones, a group of MPs has suggested.
Current laws give the “misleading impression” that hands-free options are safe, they warned.
While it has been illegal to use a handheld phone at the wheel since 2003, using a hands-free device creates “the same risks of collision”, the Commons Transport Select Committee said.
The government said that, where legal, drivers must always use phones safely.
An expert told the committee that taking a hands-free phone call caused “essentially the same” amount of distraction as being at the legal limit for alcohol blood level in England and Wales.
A public consultation on the proposal should be published by the end of 2019, the cross-party group said in a report.
Any change would not apply in Northern Ireland, where road safety policy and legislation is a devolved issue.
‘Lifetime of suffering’
Joshua Harris, of road safety charity Brake, said research showed using a hands-free phone “can impair a driver in the same way as a hand-held device and so it makes sense that the law treats these acts equally”.
“One moment’s distraction from a phone can cause a lifetime of suffering so our advice to drivers is simple – when you’re driving, make sure your phone is on silent and placed out of sight and out of reach,” he said.
There were 773 casualties on Britain’s roads in 2017, including 43 deaths and 135 serious injuries, in crashes where a driver using any kind of mobile was a contributory factor, the committee said in a report.
Alice Husband spoke to the Victoria Derbyshire programme about the death of her son, Seth.
The seven-year-old was killed in 2014 by a driver using her hands-free phone. Because the woman was not breaking the law she was charged with the lesser offence of careless driving and fined.
Ms Husband said: “He went to post a letter at the post-box opposite our house. On his return he was hit by a car and sustained injuries which led to him dying two weeks later.
“I feel at the time the research wasn’t there for us to understand the distraction of using a phone hands-free.
“By the time of the inquest the research had come out. People need to recognise this and change the way they behave. At the time [of the accident] most of us thought hands-free was acceptable.”