Pirelli has banned its drivers from using hands-free mobile phones whilst driving and is ordering all new cars without Bluetooth where this is possible.
Where Bluetooth comes as standard, drivers have been told not to use the in-car system except when they are safely parked.
While there may be a negative residual value impact from specifying its cars without Bluetooth or hands-free kits, Pirelli’s fleet coordinator Steve Yates said: “The decision was not cost-related. The depreciation might affect lease costs but I believe this will be insignificant. There is evidence that using a hands-free phone while driving causes a distraction and that is why we have banned them.”
The company has 90 company cars, all user-chooser models from 10 manufacturers, including BMW, Audi, Jaguar and Mercedes-Benz. The cars are leased on four-year 90,000 contracts.
Regardless of the RV risk of not equipping cars with hands-free equipment, the safety argument for banning hands-free phone use is compelling.
Speaking at the ACFO annual conference, PC Richard Biffin of the Staffordshire police collision investigation unit warned fleet drivers that talking on the phone will be looked at severely if the driver is involved in a crash.
Phones would be analysed in the event of an accident to establish whether the driver was using it at the time, or just prior to the incident, warned Biffin.
“We will be able to tell if you are on the phone – whether it is hand-held or hands-free – you can be charged with dangerous driving,” he said.
“You attention will not be on the road if you are talking on the phone, even if it is hands-free. At the most, use your hands-free phone to tell people you are driving and that you’ll call them back. But no more than that.”
Drivers should certainly not dial out, he warned. In the time it takes to dial a number, about five seconds, a car moving at 35mph would travel 65metres. At 60mph it would travel 130 metres.
“Hands-free may be legal, but they are still a problem,” he said.
During an emotionally-draining session called Crash Course Biffin also warned that company car drivers not wearing seatbelts who are involved in a non-fault accident face losing up to three-quarters of any compensation payout.
“Without a seatbelt you will continue to move forward at the speed that the car was travelling at until you hit an immovable object. There will be massive damage to your body,” he said.
“And the courts will take 75% off compensation in an accident claim if you are not wearing your seatbelt.”