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Phonesafe: the Fleet News campaign

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Firms fail drivers over mobile phone advice
Mobile ban sparks a new safety crisis
Answering the questions your drivers will be asking
Most fleets consider total ban on mobiles
Fleets braced for mobile 'zero hour'
Insurance alert on mobile ban
Report reveals hands-free error risks
Guest opinion: total phone ban is the safest course
Countdown to end of carefree calls in your company vehicle
Fleet News launches Phonesafe campaign

Firms fail drivers over mobile phone advice

A THIRD of drivers say their employers have made no attempt to advise them about the use of mobile phones when driving for work, despite last December's ban.

Only one in four have been clearly updated on new company policy as a result of the ban, new research by Green Flag Motoring Assistance suggests.

Since December, it has been illegal to use a hand-held mobile phone while driving. Anyone caught doing so risks a fixed penalty of £30 or, if convicted, a fine of up to £1,000, plus three points on their driving licence.

But the Green Flag survey of 700 motorists found that one in 10 are using their mobile phone handsets while driving.

Green Flag spokesman Melanie Denny said: 'The survey shows there are still a significant number of motorists prepared to risk a fine or even an accident by using a mobile phone handset when driving.

'Our research shows the majority of motorists are aware of the ban, and the dangers associated with mobile phone use, yet they are still prepared to take risks.'

Although some motorists do continue to use a hand-held mobile, more than three-quarters agreed that it severely impaired their ability to drive safely.

More encouragingly, 64% said they never use their hand-held mobile phone while driving and 28% said they had made a conscious effort to use a hands-free kit since the ban. Just 1% of those questioned were unaware of the ban.

Mobile ban sparks a new safety crisis

A BAN on the use of hand-held mobile phones while driving is causing a safety crisis on Britain's roads as motorists, including fleet drivers, put their lives in danger attempting to stop and answer calls.

Since the Government introduced the ban late last year, growing numbers of fleets have reported drivers having near-misses with stationary cars parked in dangerous places by drivers answering calls.

Already it is claimed that one driver has died in a crash after another motorist stopped to answer their mobile phone, according to industry experts.

Fleets are now being encouraged to issue their drivers with advice and guidance policies and instruct them to use safe procedures to avoid more deaths.

Risk management company Peak Performance warns that the new law is causing problems on the roads with drivers making sudden and late decisions to pull off the road to answer phone calls, causing other motorists to swerve or brake hard to avoid them.

The firm has first-hand reports of drivers choosing stopping places that are potentially dangerous and make it difficult to get back on the road safely, such as field access points or on left-hand bends.

And despite drivers' efforts, most are still breaking the law, because you can only use a hand-held mobile phone when the vehicle's engine is switched off.

Peak Performance managing director James Sutherland said: 'It has been clear to us for some time that the new laws have had some unforeseen consequences that will cause problems for busy company car drivers and other road users on the move. Drivers' lives are at risk.

'Our advice is to severely limit the use of any phones while on the move and to wait until the end of the journey before retrieving messages and answering calls in a safe and appropriate stopping area.'

The warning comes as a new survey suggests that one in five fleets face prosecution because some motorists will continue to use a hand-held mobile phone for work purposes while driving.

Carried out by Halfords, it found a fifth of motorists illegally make business calls on their mobile phones while on the move despite last year's ban.

Halfords warns that this situation poses real problems for businesses which risk being found liable for their employees' recklessness, leaving them open to large fines. While many choose to ignore the law, others simply do not understand it.

Keith Scott, general manager, automotive, at Halfords said: 'The results of our survey clearly demonstrate the issue remains how to deter someone who doesn't expect to get caught breaking a law they don't completely understand.'

In November last year, Fleet News launched its PhoneSafe campaign, designed to raise awareness of the new law among fleet operators.

Click on the Phonesafe logo on the homepage for more details.

A month later, a company vehicle driver who caused a fatal accident after making a series of calls on his hand-held mobile phone while driving, was jailed for five years (Fleet NewsNet December 18, 2003).

Answering the questions your drivers will be asking

Q.What does the regulation say about hand-held phones? .
A. The use of a hand-held phone or similar hand-held device while driving will be prohibited. A hand-held device is something that 'is or must be held at some point during the course of making or receiving a call or performing any other interactive communication function'.
A device is 'similar' to a mobile phone if it performs an interactive communication function by transmitting and receiving data. Examples are sending and receiving spoken or written messages, still or moving images and access to the internet. Two-way radios are subject to special treatment under the regulations. See last question.

Q. Is hands-free phone equipment allowed? .
A. Provided a phone can be operated without holding it, hands-free equipment is not prohibited. Pushing buttons on a phone while it is in a cradle or on the steering wheel or handlebars of a motorcycle is not covered by the new offence, provided you do not hold the phone.
However, hands-free phones are distracting and drivers risk prosecution for failing to have proper control of a vehicle if they use them when driving. The use of any phone might justify charges of careless or dangerous driving.

Q. What about texting/internet access/video phones?
A. The use of a mobile phone or similar device for any of these activities while driving is also prohibited if the phone (or other device) has to be held in order to operate it.

Q. Will drivers be able to use navigation equipment, personal digital assistants (PDAs) or other computer equipment that sends or receives data (which would include GPS transmissions)?
A. Yes – providing it is not a hand-held device. Use of devices other than mobile phones is only prohibited if the device performs an interactive communication function by sending and receiving data.

Q. Why is the use of hands-free mobile phones while driving not being banned?
Using any type of phone while driving is distracting. Drivers should remember the police can still use existing legislation (for failure to have proper control) if a driver is distracted by a call on a hands-free phone.

Q. Will mobile phones have to be switched off in vehicles?
No. Passengers may want to use them and drivers can use them when they are safely parked.

Q. What if the phone rings when I'm driving?
Let it ring and return the call when safely parked. Better to switch to voicemail before starting.

Q. Who do the new regulations apply to?
Drivers of all motor vehicles on the road, including cars, motorcycles, goods vehicles, buses, coaches and taxis. They also apply to anyone supervising a learner driver, while the learner driver is driving.

Q. Do the new regulations apply to cyclists?
No, but the police have powers to deal with dangerous cycling.

Q. Can hand-held mobile phones be used in a traffic jam?
Driving includes time spent at traffic lights or during other hold-ups when a vehicle can be expected to move off after a short while.

Q. Are there any exemptions?
Yes. There is an exemption for calls to 999 (or 112) in genuine emergencies where it is unsafe or impractical to stop.

Q. Will it be allowable to cradle a phone between ear and shoulder?
No. The offence applies if a phone has to be 'held' in any way while making or receiving a call.

Q. Are employers guilty of an offence if their employees use a hand-held phone while driving?
The new regulations apply to 'anyone who causes or permits any other person' to use a hand-held mobile phone while driving.
Employers would not be considered liable just because they supplied a phone or phoned an employee who was driving. However, they would probably be liable if they required their employees to use hand-held phones while driving or failed to forbid employees to use such phones on company business.

Q. If use of mobile phones is prohibited, surely the police will have to stop people talking or tuning the radio. What powers do they have?
There are no such intentions. There are many potential distractions while driving and it remains the driver's responsibility to drive safely at all times. Research shows it is more distracting to talk on a mobile phone than to converse with a passenger.

Q. Is the offence endorsable?
No. The offence is subject to a £30 fixed penalty or maximum fine of £1,000 for conviction in court (£2,500 for drivers of goods vehicles or buses/coaches.).
However, the DfT plans to increase this to three penalty points and a £60 fixed penalty in the future. A prosecution for careless or dangerous driving may be justified if a phone was in use at the time of an accident, for example. The penalties for such offences include heavy fines, endorsement, disqualification and, in serious cases, imprisonment.

Q. Will two-way radios be included in the new offence?
The use of two-way radio equipment (unless the device can also be used as a phone) when driving is not included in the new offence but there is still a risk of distraction and prosecution under other powers. The use of multi-purpose devices that can be used both as mobile phones and two-way radios is prohibited.

  • Source: Department for Transport
    Visit: www.dft.gov.uk

    Most fleets consider total ban on mobiles

    THE majority of small businesses have decided to impose a blanket ban on the use of all mobile phones, including hands-free kits, when driving.

    A survey by fleet management group FleetLine found that 70% of small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) have introduced the blanket ban despite the new legislation, which came into force this week, only banning hand-held phones.

    David Harnett, FleetLine's director, said: 'It is clear that many of the businesses feel that rather than facing the possibility of potentially crippling corporate liability claims in the future, imposing a blanket ban will avoid any confusion over grey areas of the legislation.'

    Parent company LeasePlan also claims fleets must provide clear guidelines or face corporate liability charges.

    Kevin McNally, managing director of LeasePlan, said: 'To help protect against corporate liability claims, companies should provide explicit guidance to their drivers.'

    The police also said this week that motorists will only get verbal warnings until February, when the fines will be enforced.

    A number of companies are still unaware that they face hefty fines if one of their fleet drivers is caught using a mobile phone while driving. If a company 'causes or permits' one of its drivers to take a call using a mobile while on the move, then the company could be fined up to £1,000.

    But research from the RAC has indicated that although the vast majority of fleets have introduced phone policies for drivers, up to 40% do not have rules regarding companies causing drivers to take a call.

    Motoring groups have urged fleets to provide clear guidelines on what is acceptable in a bid to quash uncertainties over the law.

    Fleets braced for mobile 'zero hour'

    FLEETS around the country have universally responded to next week's law change on the use of mobile phones on the road, with an exclusive Fleet News poll showing that nearly all now have banned the use of hand-held phones while driving.

    The fleet industry's almost total compliance with the law, which hits the statute books on December 1, comes as Transport Minister David Jamieson pressed home its vital importance to company car drivers.

    He said: 'Driving while using a mobile phone is dangerous – you are risking your own life and those of other road users. It's hard to concentrate when you are doing two things at once and any driver will be distracted by a phone call or text message.

    'By making it an offence to hold a mobile phone while driving, we will make the roads safer for us all. I urge drivers to remember: missing a call won't kill you – an accident quite possibly could.'

    In a Fleet Panel survey (see the FNN archive, Tuesday November 26 2003), 96% of the 160 fleets polled said they now had policies in place to stop their drivers from using mobile phones on the road.

    For the last month, Fleet NewsNet and Fleet News has been raising awareness of the new law and how it will affect drivers and fleet decision-makers through our Phone Safe campaign. Hundreds of emails and letters offering support and seeking answers about the new law have flooded in.

    As 'zero hour' gets ever closer, the Government has launched a national radio advertising campaign to raise awareness of the new legislation among drivers. It will tell motorists that from December 1, anyone caught using a hand-held mobile phone while driving will receive a fixed penalty of £30 or, if convicted in court, a fine of up to £1,000.

    The Government has also warned that drivers using hands-free kits are still at risk from prosecution for failing to control their vehicles properly. Privately it believes – as research has suggested – that hands-free kits are as distracting as hand-held mobiles. However, the problems of enforcement means hands-free kits will be left alone legally for the moment.

    In a further development this week, fleets are warned they risk causing thousands of pounds damage to their vehicles by fitting sub-standard hands-free phone kits in a bid to save money.

    Modern vehicles have complex wiring and only experts should attempt to fit new equipment. Mobile communication equipment firm Neatcom is warning that an increasing number of business motorists are calling for its help after problems with conversions offered at very low cost.

    Neatcom spokesman Kirk Auluck said: 'I had one driver who asked us to rectify a phone installation that had been done badly, which had caused £800 damage to the car's electrical system.

    'With the new hands-free legislation coming into force very soon, we have noticed more and more fitting companies setting up with little or no track record of installing hands-free car kits.

    'Many of these companies don't have liability insurance and when something goes wrong, they are nowhere to be found.'

    Auluck urged companies to issue strict guidelines on the type of hands-free kits that can be fitted, ensuring they are correctly placed and avoid damage to the dashboard.

    Insurance alert on mobile ban

    FLEETS are being warned that drivers who have an accident while breaking the new law on mobile phone use while driving could have their insurance invalidated.

    AA Insurance Services issued the alert as fleets prepare for the law that from December 1 bans the use of hand-held mobile phones while on the move. Geoff Hoyle, general manager of AA Insurance Services, said: 'While many drivers will see the new law as just another hassle, the truth is it will contribute significantly towards improving road safety.

    'It's easy to be distracted by a mobile telephone which reduces both reaction times and the ability to control a vehicle.'

    Hoyle claimed many drivers did not realise if they had an accident while breaking the law they put their insurance at risk.

    He said: 'If you have an accident while jumping a red traffic light, there's a chance that the damage to your car won't be covered. After December 1, the same will apply to the use of a hand-held mobile telephone.

    'The solution is simple – use an approved hands-free kit or switch the telephone off and catch up with your messages later. No telephone conversation is more important than your safety or the safety of other road users.

    'Most people believe that their concentration won't be affected when they use a mobile telephone but, sadly, the statistics prove otherwise.'

    Report reveals hands-free error risks

    RESEARCH has found drivers using hands-free kits make up to four times as many mistakes when driving, compared to motorists with no distractions.

    The AA research, which tested drivers using hands-free kits under controlled conditions, found that they became dangerously distracted while having a conversation.

    Although hands-free kits will not be included in the impending legislation on mobile phones due in less than two weeks, one legal expert believes it is the fleet executive's duty to make drivers aware of the dangers of driving while using such kits.

    David Young, partner at business lawyer Eversheds, said: 'Employers must make sure that employees who regularly use even hands-free equipment are fully aware of the potential risks, particularly if they are involved in an accident while on the phone.'

    The Government launched its national campaign on Monday in a bid to educate drivers on the forthcoming legislation. Radio adverts are set to run for four weeks, with additional material appearing in the national press from December 1.

    Transport Minister David Jamieson said: 'Driving while using a mobile phone is dangerous, you are risking your own life and those of other road users. It's hard to concentrate when you are doing two things at once and any driver will be distracted by a phone call or text message.'

  • The Fleet Safety Forum has also stepped up its campaign against mobile phones with the launch of a free poster offering advice for drivers. For a free sample copy contact the Fleet Safety Forum on 01484 559909.

    Guest opinion: total phone ban is the safest course

    KEVIN Clinton, head of road safety at RoSPA, argues that the new law on using mobile phones on the road does not go far enough.

    New legislation to ban the use of hand-held mobile phones while driving should have rung warning bells in every business in Britain.

    Recent guidance from the Health and Safety Executive and the Department for Transport makes it clear that employers have a duty under health and safety law to manage the risks faced by their employees on the road.

    And one of the biggest risks they face is when using mobile phones while at the wheel. Research shows that no matter what type of phone is used when driving, it will make motorists up to four times more likely to crash.

    If a boss tells his or her employees they must use phones while driving for their job, then we argue that they are being asked to face unacceptable risks.

    The new law may only cover hand-held phones, but that does not mean hands-free kits are safe. We believe the Government should have gone further and made the use of hands-free phones illegal as well. But there were concerns about the difficulty of enforcing such a law – even though police have already used phone records to prove motorists in accidents have been on the phone.

    The evidence is that even when using hands-free phones, people become so engrossed in their conversations that they forget about the road. They tailgate, weave around and vary their speed, increasing the chances of crashing.

    A telephone conversation is very different to chatting with a passenger. The passenger can see what is going on around them. They can be quiet if a difficult driving situation arises, or even warn of approaching dangers. The person on the phone cannot do that.

    No matter how short they might want the conversation to be, it's always likely to go on longer than intended.

    RoSPA wants employers to make it a disciplinary offence to use a phone when driving or for managers to insist that drivers use phones when at the wheel. If they are not persuaded by the moral argument, they should look at the business case.

    Accidents cost businesses money, not just through repair and increased insurance bills, but through loss of reputation and the possibility that key members of staff will be injured or, in the worst cases, killed. The victim's skills will be lost to the organisation either temporarily or permanently and there are the added burdens of recruiting replacements.

    The new law will include an offence of 'causing or permitting' a driver to use a hand-held phone while driving. This will apply to employers who will be guilty of an offence if they require or permit their staff who drive for work, to use a hand-held mobile phone while driving.

    Employers would be unwise to respond to the ban on hand-held phones by simply supplying their staff with hands-free kits. Even if the use of these while driving does not contravene the specific ban on hand-held phones, employers could fall foul of health and safety laws if it is determined the use of the phone contributed to an accident.

    Regulation 104 of the Construction and Use regulation, which requires drivers to be in proper control of their vehicles, also includes a 'cause or permit' clause which makes an employer who requires an employee to drive a vehicle which they cannot properly control liable for prosecution.

    As well as a fine, the Government is planning to give the new law extra teeth so that using a hand-held phone will also result in three penalty points on the offender's licence. Those who ignore the safety case will increase the likelihood of facing a ban from the road. Some employers may find themselves sacking drivers because of bans or, if they do not go that far, having to find replacements or change working patterns for employees who are off the road.

    RoSPA recommends that employers introduce a policy along these lines: You must not make or receive a call on a mobile phone (whether hand-held or hands-free) as the driver of a vehicle unless it is parked in a safe place. No line manager shall require an employee to receive a call on a mobile phone while driving. Contravention of these requirements will be regarded as a serious disciplinary matter.

  • What do you think? Email fleetnews@emap.com

    Countdown to end of carefree calls in your company vehicle

    FLEETS have just over two weeks to prepare for new legislation that bans the use of mobile phones while driving.

    Here, Fleet NewsNet attempts to unravel some of the confusion surrounding the new law by featuring a question and answer session prepared by the Department for Transport.

    Last week we launched our PhoneSafe campaign as a call to action for fleets to prepare for the ban.

    Throughout this month, we will be running a series of best practice articles, interviews, guest opinions and case studies to raise awareness of the new law, its consequences and the action that should be taken by companies to protect themselves and their employees.

    As fleets are being urged to act on the new legislation, the Government has been accused of taking too long to publish the full details.

    Stewart Whyte, director of the Association of Car Fleet Operators (ACFO), said: 'Fleet operators must analyse the legislation and then consider what changes they need to make to existing arrangements. I am personally aware of many situations where fleet policy documentation, driver handbooks and intranet sites are poised for re-writing, to ensure that the company advise and instructs its drivers correctly.

    'Fleets need to know how best to act to meet both the new regulation and the carry-over of the existing driving-with-due-care-and-attention regulations.

    'Where fleets decide to invest in good-quality hands-free equipment, they need to have the background knowledge of what will, and what will not, meet the terms, letter and spirit of the new regulations.

    'To order, for example, 500 in-car hands-free kits, get them installed and ensure drivers are appropriately trained to use them is virtually impossible in the time remaining to December 1.'

    Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM) chief executive Christopher Bullock warned that drivers using hands-free kits while on the move should remain cautious.

    He said: 'This winter should see the beginning of the end for the 'phoney driver' – that anti-social individual who thinks it is possible to control a vehicle properly while talking into a hand-held mobile phone.

    'This has got to be good news. From December 1, there will be new fines for using hand-held mobile phones at the wheel. But for all those mobile phone violators out there – and their numbers don't seem to be decreasing – hands-free will not mean getting off scot-free. In the event of a crash, the police won't be particularly impressed if by way of mitigation it is claimed that the telephone being used was wired into the car's system.'

    Mobile headset manufacturer Jabra has teamed up with the Association of British Drivers to produce a guide explaining the new law.

    Ben Bushell, country manager, UK and Ireland, at Jabra, said: 'There is still a great deal of confusion in the market around the legislation and the legal options available to drivers still wishing to use their phones while on the move.

    'We want the public to be prepared for December 1 and we hope that the guide will allow people to make an educated decision when selecting a hands-free solution and use it in the safest way possible.'

  • To receive a copy, email jabra_guide@wildfirepr.co.uk

    Fleet News launches Phonesafe campaign

    FLEET News this week launches a new campaign, PhoneSafe, as a call to action for fleets to prepare for the Government ban on the use of hand-held mobile phones while driving, which comes into force on December 1.

    Throughout November, Fleet NewsNet will run a series of best practice articles, interviews, guest opinions and case studies to raise awareness of the new law, its consequences and the action that should be taken by companies to protect themselves and their employees.

    Fleet News editor John Maslen said: 'This is a massive issue for the fleet industry, as many company car drivers have been issued with mobile phones by their employers.

    'Firms will have to have systems in place to ensure they are not forcing their employees to be talking on the phone while driving, and drivers will have to change the way they work while out on the road.'

    According to latest research from the Association of British Drivers (ABD), 40% of motorists are still unaware that use of hand-held mobile while driving is to be banned. Mobile headset manufacturer JABRA and the ABD carried out the research to assess the impact the impending legislation had made.

    Other key findings of the research included the fact that 17% of drivers questioned admitted to using a hand-held mobile while driving.

    A quarter of respondents who were aware of new legislation said it would not stop them from using a hand-held mobile while driving.

    And many drivers who are aware of the legislation are still confused over what hands-free options are legal.

    The ban will make Britain's fleet drivers liable to face a minimum £30 fine if they are caught using a hand-held mobile while they are in control of a vehicle.

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