Although companies understand that it is against the law to use a hand-held mobile phone while driving following a law introduced last year, it is still unclear what constitutes a hands-free phone call.
A meeting of the London East division of the Association of Car Fleet Operators heard a variety of differing interpretations of the law.
Some members believed the phone had to be in a fixed cradle to make it hands-free, while others thought it could be loose as long as it could not be touched during a call.
And fleet operators criticised retailers for not doing enough to help drivers and companies purchasing mobile phones to understand their responsibilities.
One fleet decision-maker at the meeting asked: ‘Why are retailers not taking the law into account when they sell mobile phones with earpieces?
‘They need to take a standard approach to informing buyers.’
Members said they could not be certain whether a bluetooth phone, which would be loose in the car but would not need to be touched to answer a call, would be seen as hands-free. Some believed it was within the law, while others were less certain.
One member said: ‘I have talked to the police and they told me that if the phone is not fixed to the dashboard, then it is not legal to use while driving.’
Another said: ‘A lot of companies may have missed a vital issue when printing their drivers’ handbooks.’
Since the introduction of the law, many risk management experts have recommended that employers ban drivers from making calls on any phone, whether hand-held or hands-free.
Instead, they believe drivers should be encouraged to pull over at regular intervals to check their phone messages. Such a practice, they say, would also avoid drivers spending too long behind the wheel at one time, another potential cause of accidents.
Mobile phone law fact file
Source: Department for Transport