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Shaun Sadlier's blog: The consequences of mobile phone use

Date: 03 November 2017

Shaun Sadlier, head of consulting at Arval, talks about the challenges of mobile phone use when driving for fleets.

Two pieces of news caught my eye over the last couple of weeks. One was research from the RAC suggesting that more than nine million motorists are still illegally using their mobile phone behind wheel; the second was that the government plans to introduce life sentences for drivers who cause death resulting from phone use.

These stories are indicative of a very wide gap in public opinion. The RAC talks about a "hard core of persistent offenders" who refuse to comply with mobile phone laws, yet clearly there is a contrasting public mood that is helping to make the new life sentences legislation a reality. 

What relevance does this have for fleets? Well, when there are these kinds of wide-ranging attitudes among the general public, it is probably inevitable that they will be also found among fleet drivers.

Most fleets have spent considerable time and effort in recent years educating their drivers about phone use but there will be some who nod and agree with the information being imparted who have then carried on behaving pretty much in exactly the same way as before. Ultimately, employers can do everything within their power to stop this happening - for example a clear company fleet policy or ongoing communications campaigns - but, in an atmosphere where phone use while driving is socially acceptable in some quarters, some people will probably slip through the net.

Against this backdrop, it does seem to me that the introduction of the life sentence provides a clear message that can be usefully used by fleets. Few company car or van drivers envisage their on-road behaviour causing a death but making it clear that if your use of a mobile while driving leads to the loss of another's life, you could potentially lose your own freedom permanently, is something that should make even the most persistent phone user think twice.

Of course, there will probably still be a few who simply ignore the warnings but fleets need to continue to play their part in ensuring that there is a cultural change over time that makes phone use behind the wheel completely unacceptable.