MOBILE PHONES AND DRIVING
Everyone knows (or should know) that it is illegal to operate a hand held mobile telephone whilst driving. It is not just illegal to make calls on hand held devices, but it is also illegal to be using the hand held device whilst driving, to send text messages, email, watch videos, access the internet and/or using the phone GPS for directions. Whilst it has been illegal since December 2003 to use hand held devices whilst driving, some drivers are nevertheless continuing to ignore the law. In an attempt to deal with these law breakers the Government, on 1st March 2017, increased (doubled) the penalty to a £200 fine plus 6 penalty points.
Remember drivers can be banned (disqualified) from driving if they either:
- are convicted of a driving offence
- get 12 or more penalty points (endorsements) within 3 years
A driving licence will be revoked if the driver gets 6 or more points within 2 years of passing their test.
But what about “Hands Free”?
It is still legal to use a ‘hands-free’ mobile phone but this raises safety concerns. Conversations using a hands-free phone can still distract the driver from concentrating on the road ahead and drivers can be prosecuted for using a hands-free mobile phone if they are not in proper control of their vehicle.
The penalties will be the same as for using a hand-held phone; but the penalties for driving carelessly or dangerously when using any phone can include disqualification, a large fine and up to two years imprisonment. On top of this is the potential risk of an accident, serious injury or loss of life of the driver, passengers and/or other third parties.
In addition, the police will look at whether the Employer is liable following ‘killed or seriously injured’ road traffic accidents, if the accident occurred whilst a driver was driving on 'company' business.
What should employers do?
Employers should put a policy in place that deals with the use of mobile phones (hand-held and hands-free) whilst driving. Having some simple rules regarding the use of mobile phones whilst driving can be beneficial and help to reduce the risk of a driver:
- receiving a fine and points on their licence
- losing their licence (and possibly their job!)
- having an accident, causing serious injury or death to themselves, passengers and/or other third parties
and to defend any suggestion that the Employer is to blame for an accident.
Recommended Good Practice
For hand-held mobile phones - Employers should:
- prohibit the use of a hand-held mobile telephone whilst driving,
- require drivers not to use their hand-held phone when stopped at Traffic lights or queuing in traffic,
- require drivers to only use the hand-held phone after they have stopped in a safe place and switched off the engine,
- remind drivers not to stop to make or receive a call on the motorway hard-shoulder (it is illegal) except in an emergency breakdown situation,
- require drivers to use voicemail, a message service or call diversion to enable messages to be retrieved later, (require drivers to periodically stop in a safe place to check messages).
For hands-free mobile phones – Employers should:
- require drivers to make and receive calls only when it is safe to do so having regard to the driving and road conditions where increased concentration is required,
- require drivers not to have long and complex telephone discussions requiring increased concentration whilst driving,
- not require or insist that a driver makes or receive calls whilst they are driving,
- instruct fellow staff not to make calls to colleagues mobiles when they know they are likely to be driving,
- require workers who contact colleagues/customers or anyone else on their mobile phones to first ascertain when connected, that it is safe for them to continue the conversation i.e. check if they are driving and are hands free!
- where it is unsafe for a driver to receive a call require drivers to let the call go to voicemail, a message service or call diversion to enable messages to be retrieved later (require drivers to periodically stop in a safe place to check messages).
And, Employers should:
require workers who contact colleagues/customers or anyone else on their mobile phones to first ascertain when connected, that it is safe for them to continue the conversation i.e. check if they are driving and are hands free!
Given the more stringent penalties, clients with an on-going HR service agreement with Sentient may wish to consider a more strongly worded clause in their Employee Handbooks to discourage usage of mobile phones and other forms of technology (e.g. SatNav Systems) which may distract employees whilst driving. Please contact us if you wish to discuss this further.