While there are no official statistics linking the use of mobile phones to the 150 road deaths or serious injuries each week involving at-work drivers in the UK, a study in America has found that almost one in five road deaths caused by distracted drivers entailed mobile phone use.
Accident investigators are more alert to the use of mobile phones: in the event of a serious accident they will check phone records as a matter of course. If the driver was on the phone – or at some point prior to the accident – both they and their company will be held liable.
Among the first questions asked will be: does the company have a policy on the use of mobile phones while driving and what does it do to enforce it?
In a Fleet News poll, 55.6% of respondents admitted they allowed staff to use hands-free mobile phones for both incoming and outgoing calls with a further 8.3% allowing incoming calls only. All could be implicated in the event of a serious accident involving one of their drivers talking on the phone.
Just over a third (36.1%) said all mobile phone use was banned.
Risks are caused mainly by the mental distraction and divided attention from taking part in a conversation while driving.
Department for Transport research suggests that reaction times could be 30% worse than when driving under the influence of alcohol.
Meanwhile reaction times for drivers using a phone – talking or texting – are believed to be around 50% slower than normal driving.
It is against this background that organisations such as diversified technology company 3M and leading fuel and fleet management company Arval have banned employees’ use of mobile phones when driving.
Both are ‘Business Champions’ under Roadsafe’s Driving for Better Business campaign.
At Arval, the ban extends to business and personal mobile phones and applies to any employee using a car for business. It affects 500 employees.
Tracey Scarr, Arval fleet and road safety manager, said: “When the law changed, we immediately made the proactive decision to also ban the use of hands-free. The motivation was to reduce road risk and support driver safety.
An easy business decision
She added: “Our belief is that no business activity should take priority over a company’s duty of care towards its employees, which is why a complete mobile ban was an easy business decision.”
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