Driving is the most dangerous work activity that most people do. Over 100 people are killed or seriously injured every week in crashes involving someone who was driving or riding for work. (source: link). Research shows that using a hand-held or hands-free mobile phone while driving is a significant distraction that substantially increases the risk of crashing.
High mileage and company car drivers are more likely than most to use a mobile phone while driving, and very often they are using the phone for work purposes. However as mobile phone functionality become increasingly complex, their usage is becoming more and more addictive with drivers easily tempted to read the latest text, email or view a photo that pops up on their screen, whilst driving!
Penalties for using a hand-held mobile phone or device whilst driving now sit at six penalty points and a £200 fine. A goods vehicle or a vehicle adapted to carry more than eight passengers can be fined up to £2500 if it is considered the driver is in such a position that he cannot have proper control of the vehicle. In the event that the matter comes before a Court, a discretionary disqualification can also be imposed.
The police also check phone records when investigating fatal and serious crashes to determine if a driver was using a phone. Using a phone in this situation can be considered an aggravating factor, potentially leading to imprisonment if someone was killed or seriously injured.
Employers Carry the Can
Employers who require their staff to use any mobile phone while driving for work could be prosecuted under health and safety law if an investigation determined that using a phone contributed to a crash.
All organisations have a responsibility for ensuring that they have suitable policies and practices in place to ensure that any equipment they provide is used appropriately and properly.
Here are a few questions you need to ask yourself:
- Do you have a mobile phone usage policy?
- Do you enforce any policies with regards to driving and mobile phone use?
- Do all users of mobile phones in vehicles used for business have ‘Hands Free’?
- Do you have a protocol in place when talking to anyone (staff or customers) on a mobile to ensure that it is safe to do so?
By considering the above four points, you will be on the right track to demonstrating that you as an employer have considered the implications and have taken suitable steps to prevent any of your staff falling foul of the law.
It is recommended that employees activate Bluetooth then put their phone out of reach e.g. in the boot or glove compartment. That way they can answer calls within the law without being tempted to take the risk of checking texts or emails whilst on the road.