Phone driving warning ahead of new laws
26 February 2007
Author: Tristan Young
The business car industry has mounted a PR offensive to make sure all companies and drivers are aware of their obligations ahead of the introduction of the Road Safety Act on 27 February.
Several leading fleet management firms, risk management operations and business organisations all called for British companies to take the new laws seriously.
The news follows a poll on BusinessCar.co.uk which found that 78% of readers did not think the new laws would be enough to stop people using hand-held phones while at the wheel.
The new law gives police the powers to issue law-breakers with a £60 fine and three penalty points on their licence.
Andy Price, from Zurich Risk Services' motor fleet department, said: "Mobile phones are probably the biggest distraction, with research evidence suggesting that holding a conversation on the phone leads to drivers having similar reaction times to someone twice over the UK drink-drive limit."
Going further Mike Waters, head of market analysis at Arval and BusinessCar blogger, said: "For businesses, best practice would be to implement a complete ban for their fleet. Although companies may want to remain in contact with drivers whilst they are on the road, you have to ask yourself the question - is immediate contact really necessary or worth the risk?
"In terms of consequences we are not just focusing on the financial burdens to drivers and their licenses but the overall impacts to road safety and the reputation of the employer."
Mike Waters continued: "Drivers need to get into the habit of switching off their mobile phone behind the wheel and only access them during appropriate driving breaks.
"Drivers are recommended to take a 15-minute break every two hours. The introduction of a total ban on mobile phones in cars would encourage drivers to take these breaks, making Britain's roads a safer place on which to drive."
Jon Walden, MD of Lex, added: "The driver handbook and vehicle handover process should be at the heart of any mobile phone policy and still drivers use their handsets because their companies haven't given them official guidelines. It's all linked with duty of care so come 27 of February all companies should have updated their policies.
"Company intranets should be used to communicate this on Monday. The driver isn't always to blame - company bosses should be playing their part."
Pointing out the wider implications of who could be prosecuted under the new rules a spokesman for the Forum of Private Business said: "Of particular concern to smaller businesses is the fact that as part of the new legislation, employers themselves can now be prosecuted if they cause or permit employees to take or make calls, or send texts while driving. This also applies to companies who require their employees to make or take calls whilst on the road.
"The new regulations are not limited to hand-held devices and will also cover hands-free kits, if the driver is not in control of the vehicle. Even callers can be prosecuted for causing or permitting a driver to use a hand-held phone or to not have proper control of their vehicle. With additional police enforcement being implemented, there is a real chance that those who break this law will be caught.
"Our advice is the same as the Department of Transport's: switch off before you drive off."