Penalties for using a mobile phone while driving doubled from 1 March, with those caught using their handset facing immediate action. The Freight Transport Association is urging all operators of commercial vehicles to review their policies and ensure that all their drivers are compliant to avoid potential disqualifications which could have an impact on business performance.
Government research has found that speaking on the phone while driving makes a collision four times more likely, even if it’s hands-free. And while most people agree that calling while driving should be outlawed altogether, around 25 per cent admit to using their phones on the move.1
Anyone caught using a hand-held phone will now receive six penalty points and a £200 fine. For newly-qualified drivers, it means an immediate ban, and professional drivers could face sanctions from the Traffic Commissioner.
The Department for Transport ran a Think! campaign throughout March and April, encouraging drivers to put their phones in the glove box or out of reach. But it’s not only hand-held mobile phones that are under the spotlight…
Using a hands-free kit could cause driver distraction, leading to a prosecution for the much more serious offences of careless or dangerous driving and for failing to have proper control of the vehicle. Research has shown that driving while talking on the phone makes reaction times worse than driving while under the influence of alcohol – a sobering thought.
And it’s not just the driver who is at risk. Employers can also be prosecuted for causing or permitting an offence by providing hands-free kits or calling employees while they are on the road.
Mark Cartwright, FTA’s Head of Vans, has been highlighting the risks in a series of briefings to van operators across the country. He created a scenario representing a fatal crash at each event and outlined the consequences for the driver, operations manager and company owner, culminating in a mock court hearing.
Operators really need to consider the possible consequences of drivers using mobile phones during their working day, even if they have a policy in place and provide hands-free kits. There is overwhelming evidence that having a phone conversation while driving causes serious distraction, so it’s worth considering a policy of no mobile phone use whatsoever while behind the wheel.
Is there anything so urgent that it can’t wait for the driver to pull over?
Using mobile phones while driving needs to become as unacceptable as drink driving. Until then we’ll continue to see accidents on our roads where phones are a factor.
FTA’s Van Excellence scheme helps operators to adopt industry best practice and raises levels of professionalism in the sector. For more information see www.vanexcellence.co.uk
For full details of the new government penalties for mobile phone use can be seen at www.gov.uk/using-mobile-phones-when-driving-the-law
1 Think Tracking Research 2003