Nearly one in five UK businesses say their employees have been involved in an accident while driving for work due to using a handheld phone at the wheel.

A survey of 1,000 companies carried out by RAC Business across all fleet sizes and sectors found that 19% had reported phone-related accidents involving their drivers.

The survey also found that 15% of firms’ drivers were ‘often’ involved in phone-related accidents and 5% said these happened ‘on a regular basis’.

RAC Business says that fleets and business owners should highlight the dangers of using a handheld phone at the wheel to their employees and make sure they have a policy in place covering the use of phones while driving for work.

Rod Dennis from the RAC’s Be Phone Smart campaign said: “It is illegal to use a handheld phone while driving. But at the same time we recognise that businesses need to stay in touch with drivers and commercial vehicle drivers need to stay in touch with customers.

“The use of hands-free kits is within the law and that can provide a legal and safer solution for businesses, which is how many different businesses operate.

“If employers expect their company drivers and staff to take calls on the road, which 38% admit they do according to our research, then they should be providing legally compliant hands-free kits so they can do that without breaking the law.”

Dennis said that while the survey found 70% of companies did provide hands-free kits, the RAC felt this figure should be much higher, and that every business should have a clear code of conduct or policy for drivers.

He added: “Just because it’s legal to use a hands-free kit, it doesn’t necessarily means it’s always safe to do so, and it certainly shouldn’t be used to have long conference calls or to proactively make lots of calls on a long journey. 

“It should always be down to the driver in terms of how they feel about taking a call and they should only do so if they judge it to be safe and not causing them a distraction.”