MOBILE PHONES AND DRIVING
Everyone knows (or should know) that it is illegal to operate a hand held mobile telephone whilst driving, but nevertheless some drivers are ignoring the law. In an attempt to deal with these law breakers, the Government, on 27th February 2007, increased the penalty to a £60 fine plus 3 penalty points. If the case goes to court the fine could by a maximum of £1,000 or £2,500 for drivers of vans, lorries, buses and coaches.
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.
As indicated in our previous Information Update on ‘Liability for Drivers’, 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 only to make and receive calls 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,
- where it is unsafe for a driver to receive a call, 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).
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!