Mobile phone use while driving is a contentious subject. While it is illegal in the UK to use a mobile phone whilst behind the wheel, you will still see a number of drivers that flout this law. Plus using a hands-free phone is legal, but there is mounting evidence suggesting that it is dangerous so some companies are taking a stance.

In America, a study found that one in five road deaths caused by distracted drivers entailed mobile phone use, and the recent BlackBerry outage had a really interesting impact on road accidents in the Middle-East. With email, messenger and internet functions unavailable to BlackBerry users, Abu Dhabi and Dubai saw a major reduction in road incidents.

Specifically, in Dubai, traffic accidents fell 20% from average rates on the days BlackBerry users were unable to use its messaging service. In Abu Dhabi the drop was steeper, 40% and there were no fatal accidents.

It’s clear that using a phone, whether it’s to call, text, or check the internet is really dangerous. And in the UK, this warning extends to hands free phone use as the Department for Transport suggests that reaction times could be 30% worse than when driving under the influence of alcohol and around 50% slower than normal driving.

With this kind of compelling evidence, companies should be encouraged to carefully look at their fleet policy to decide if the business benefit of hands-free is worth the risk. Especially when you consider that while the use of hands-free while driving isn’t illegal, drivers could still be charged with ‘failing to have proper control of their vehicle’ if they are involved in a collision.

So with more and more statistics emerging that show the dangers of phone use, pressure is mounting on companies to 1) proactively ensure that their drivers don’t break the law by using a phone while driving and 2) restrict the use of a hands-free for their drivers.

We are all busy, and being able to check messages and email is very useful in many jobs. But the reality is that no message is worth causing a collision over, and while some companies are taking a tough stance – there are plenty of others that could be learning from their example.

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