But that will have to change as from December 1 the Government will introduce a ban on the use of hand-held mobile phones while driving. Ministers also discourage the use of hands-free mobile phones while driving, but this would be impossible to enforce by law, so has not been included in the proposal. From December 1, if a driver is caught using a hand-held phone while driving, he or she will face a £30 fine.
Drivers will also be awarded three penalty points on their driving licence for each offence.
Currently, motorists can only be prosecuted for using a mobile phone while driving if they fail to keep proper control of their vehicle.
Civil servants say that simply providing a hand-held mobile phone or ringing the driver would not be a cause for prosecution for companies, but action such as insisting drivers answer the phone while on the move knowing they don't have a hands-free kit could open up a company to legal action.
Road safety minister David Jamieson said: 'Our decision to introduce this new offence will make the roads safer for us all. Missing a call won't kill you but an accident possibly could.'
There has been broad support for the ban within the fleet industry, although experts have pointed out that other distractions can be just as dangerous on the road, such as smoking, eating and drinking (Fleet NewsNet July 3).
However, our research shows that many fleets will face a tough challenge over the next few months to ensure their drivers understand how they will be affected by the new law.
Has your fleet got a written policy banning the use of hand-held mobile phones while driving?
'No. We consider such a ban to be stupid. We are in the 21st century and instant communication is not only a fact, it is essential. There is no evidence that the use of mobile phones has increased our already very low accident rates. We advise our drivers to use their mobile phones with care but the plain fact is that the mobile phone has contributed to a large increase in the efficiency of both sales staff and delivery drivers. This ban is both inconvenient and expensive.'
R.G, via email
'Yes, we have a written policy. We also have a policy where we discourage use of mobile phones with hands-free kits while driving. Answerphone facilities must be used while the vehicle is moving and calls only made when the vehicle is stationary and it is safe to use the phone. The sooner this ban comes into effect and disciplinary measures taken the better.'
'Yes. We also have an additional advisory policy regarding the use of hands-free mobile phones while driving. If a call comes in drivers should stop when appropriate and retrieve the message.'
Group accountant, CPiO
'We do not issue mobile phones unless there is a hands-free car kit in the user's vehicle. We also ask staff not to take calls when driving. My main concern is how we can enforce this and only time and potential points on driving licences will tell. However, we have lots of other drivers who use their own mobiles over which we have little or no control and it is this area where I foresee the biggest problem.'
Group fleet manager, Bowmer & Kirkland
'We issue a company policy instruction along with the every phone and hands-free kit. It emphasises the safety issues and that mobile phones are not to be used while driving. It also states that the hands-free kit is provided solely to assist note-taking or document handling while in a conversation and is not to be interpreted as encouraging use while driving.'
Fleet manager, Nu-Swift International
'We have had a written policy for more than 18 months. I have to agree with the new law. If you have ever met a car being driven at speed, on the wrong side of the road, by a man with one hand on the steering wheel and the other holding a mobile phone, you would understand why. The only reservation I have is why is it restricted to mobile phones. I have, for some years, been advocating a ban on drivers smoking in cars.'
Company secretary, Seco Tools (UK)
'On a safety basis, our drivers are advised not to use mobile phones while driving. This is in our company car handbook. The forthcoming legislation means we will need to strengthen our policy on this.'
C.D, via email
'We introduced a written policy prohibiting the use of mobile phones, both hand-held and hands-free, back in 1997. In addition, any policy on mobile phones must include company-provided mobile phones being used in private or business on-hire vehicles. However, having a written policy is not the end of the exercise. It is essential that any policy must be regularly brought to employees' attention.'
Administration & data protection manager, RNIB
'I fully support the legislation. Drivers get off far too lightly. The use of a hand-held mobile phone while the vehicle is in motion is a particularly stupid thing to do because the vehicle cannot be under proper control. I would personally like to see much stiffer penalties, such as a minimum six penalty points awarded with an earnings-related unlimited fine. I see no difference in using a hand-held mobile phone while driving and driving while under the influence of alcohol or illegal drugs.'
Fleet services – south, Telewest Broadband
'Fleet executives need to be able to demonstrate that the policy has been understood by everyone who is driving on company business. The safest solution is to accept the legislation, actively manage the identified risk and install hands-free kits in every vehicle in which business mileage will be driven.'
Administration manager, Slough Estates
'I have written to all of our company car drivers and car allowance drivers to tell them if they do not have a hands-free car kit they must get one as soon as possible. There is no excuse as Bayer will pay for these kits. I think this legislation is well overdue.'
Group fleet manager, Bayer
'We have always fitted hands-free mobile phone car kits to avoid this problem.'
Business services manager, LEO Pharma
'We do not have a policy in place at the moment but expect to within the next month.'
D.C, via email
'Sadly and with some embarrassment we do not, but ask me again in a month.'
R.L, via email