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Mobile Phone Use While Driving Personal And Corporate Risks

Oct 21, 2020

Mobile phone use while driving risks are many and varied. Driving distracted even for a brief amount of time can have significant consequences.

Yet figures continue to suggest that drivers are flouting the rules relating to handheld mobile devices.

A recent RAC study found that almost a third of people (29%) admit to making and taking calls on handheld devices whilst driving. This is the highest reported level since 2016, despite the government introducing tougher penalties around this time.

And in 2018 there were 565 fatal/serious collisions due to mobile phone use (IAM Roadsmart)

What are the rules relating to mobile and technology use whilst driving?

It is illegal to hold a mobile phone whilst driving any motor vehicle or riding a motorbike.

This law continues to apply when you are:

  • Stopped at traffic lights
  • Queuing in traffic
  • Supervising a learner driver

This is vital as many people wrongly believe you can make use of a mobile device when stationary, with the engine on. Figures show that 83% of drivers admit to using a mobile phone while their vehicle is stationary with the engine running, despite it being illegal.

You must have handsfree access to make use of a mobile phone. This can be through:

  • a bluetooth headset
  • voice command
  • a windscreen mount
  • dashboard holder/mat.

The device must be set up so that it does not block your view of the road or traffic ahead.

You must stay in full control of the vehicle at all times. You can be stopped by the police if they believe you are distracted and therefore not in full control of your vehicle.

The only times when you can legally use a mobile phone in your vehicle are:

  • When you are safely parked
  • If you need to call 999 or 112 in an emergency and it’s unsafe or impractical to stop.

What are the personal consequences of mobile phone use while driving?

Being caught using a mobile phone whilst driving carries a range of penalties.

If you are caught using a mobile phone whilst driving, you can get:

  • 6 penalty points and;
  • A £200 fine
  • You can lose your licence if you passed your test within the last 2 years
  • You can also be given 3 penalty points if you do not have a full view of the road and traffic ahead or proper control of the vehicle.

In some cases, you can also be taken to court. This can result in:

  • Being banned from driving
  • A maximum fine of £1,000 (£2,500 if you are lorry or bus driver)

For more serious offences, which result in death or serious injury, drivers can face prison sentences of up to 14 years.

Upcoming reviews of the sentencing guidelines could also see tougher penalties for those using a mobile phone whilst driving. Under the proposals due to be brought in next year, drivers who cause death by speeding, racing, or using a mobile phone could face sentences equivalent to manslaughter. Maximum penalties could be increased from 14 years to life.

What are the corporate consequences of mobile phone use while driving?

There are wide ranging consequences for your business if someone that you employ is caught using a mobile phone whilst driving or driving whilst otherwise distracted. Particularly if the offence results in injury or fatality.

The most serious offences can result in responsible directors facing imprisonment, unlimited fines or prosecution for gross negligence manslaughter or corporate manslaughter.

Other consequences can include damage to your brand reputation, potential business closure, and an impact on your ability to obtain insurance.

Why it is important to have a technology usage policy in place?

Figures show that 91% of drivers do not actually understand or misinterpret the legislation regarding handheld mobile phone use whilst driving. It is therefore vital to educate your business and drivers on the rules and regulations.

As a business you need to be able to demonstrate that you manage risks to drivers and to other road users as part of your health and safety arrangements. The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 section 3 (1) (a) require employers to carry out an assessment of risks to employees and others, which includes driving risks.

Your risk assessment should identify mobile phone use while driving risks, with appropriate control measures identified, implemented and monitored for effectiveness.

One way to achieve this is by putting a standalone technology usage policy in place which covers handheld mobile phone usage. Train your drivers and managers on the policy and procedures, and ensure they understand the legislation and related penalties.

Review your policy regularly and update where necessary. If, for example, the sentencing guidelines relating to causing death while driving and using a mobile device are changed next year, your policy will need to reflect this and your drivers/managers provided with the new information.

You should also consider your policy on use of handsfree technology. Whilst not covered by current legislation, the use of hands free technology has been shown to be just as distracting to drivers. Take a stance on this issue in your policies and procedures so that your drivers are very clear on what is and isn’t allowed whilst driving for work.

At Anthony Jones we can work with you to help improve your risk profile and put risk management measures in place. We also work in association with DAC Beachcroft and are able to help you to understand how to draft and implement a Driving Policy for your business. Your insurance broker should do more for your business than just arrange your insurance.  Talk to Anthony Jones today about the difference we can make to your business.

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