Fleet News

Law gets tough on sleep and mobiles

FLEET drivers who cause a death by driving when using a mobile phone or falling asleep at the wheel face tougher sentences, including prison terms under new guidelines launched this month by Lord Chief Justice Lord Woolf.

The fresh guidelines for courts in England and Wales announced by Lord Woolf and two other appeal court judges were in response to recommendations made by the Sentencing Advisory Panel.

The Government watchdog said its new guidelines will help sentencers to strike an appropriate balance between the level of role of the offender and the magnitude of the harm resulting from the offence.

The Lord Chief Justice's new sentencing guidelines at the Court of Appeal recommend that drivers known to have caused death by falling asleep at the wheel, or death due to using a mobile phone while driving, should be routinely given custodial sentences.

He stated that the only appropriate punishment for causing death by dangerous driving was a prison sentence. Some sentences could be increased by up to five years depending on the seriousness of the aggravating factor, he said. Previously, falling asleep at the wheel had been seen as a mitigating factor.

In a further development, RAC is stepping up its campaign to prevent motorists from falling asleep while driving after research revealed that sleepy drivers cause 20% of all motorway accidents. RAC advises fleet drivers to take regular breaks, ensure the car is well ventilated, have a 15 minute nap and ensure any medication they are taking does not make them drowsy.

Will hands-free kits be illegal?

UP to six million drivers do not have mobile phones that meet standards set to be law under new Government proposals, according to the Association of British Drivers (ABD).

The legislation, which is still under consultation, would ban the use of hand-held mobile phones while driving, including some hands-free kits that are not wired into the car's speaker system. Equipment that plugs into a cigarette lighter or a headset would be outlawed, the ABD claims. The ABD says such wide-ranging legislation is unnecessary and counterproductive, and will lead to widespread non-compliance. The consultation period on the legislation has now closed and an announcement on when a law might be passed is expected in the summer.

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