Road safety charity Brake is urging the Government and companies to take action after its research found significant numbers of people who drive for work are risking devastating crashes by texting, speeding and grooming at the wheel.
Brake and Direct Line conducted two surveys, one looking at distractions while driving (which 532 at-work drivers participated in) and one looking at speed (with 703 at-work drivers).
The research revealed that people driving for business purposes are more likely than the general driving population to take these risks. It found:
- Nearly a third (31%) text while driving, compared to 28% of non-work drivers
- Nearly one in six (17%) admit grooming while driving, compared with 14% of non-work drivers
- More than a third (37%) admit driving while talking on a hands-free phone, compared with 24% of non-work drivers
- More than half (54%) admit speeding on 60mph limit roads, compared with 34% of non-work drivers
- More than three quarters (76%) admit speeding more than 5mph above the limit on 30mph roads, compared with 62% of non-work drivers
Julie Townsend, deputy chief executive at Brake, said: "It is appalling so many people who drive in a professional capacity are taking such horrendous and unnecessary risks, doing things we all know are unbelievably dangerous behind the wheel.
“We are urging all employers to ensure they have comprehensive safe driving policies in place and that staff know the importance of not speeding or driving distracted.
“We are also calling on anyone who drives for work to make a commitment to stay within speed limits, stay off the phone, and focused on the critical task at hand."
Matt Owen, spokesperson for Direct Line, said: "Those who drive as part of their job seem to take greater risks whilst at the wheel, than the average driver.
“Whether it's over confidence as they are heavy road users, work pressures or to save time, the risks they are taking with their lives and the lives of others is substantial.
“What's more, texting, speeding and careless driving are illegal, and if caught the consequences could mean the risk they are taking with lives is also risking their livelihood."
Brake advises employers to implement a safe driving policy that includes: training and educating drivers to always put safety first and not take risks; planning journeys carefully, including reviewing the need to make journeys in the first place; monitoring drivers, crashes and near-misses to address specific risks and problems; implementing a ban on distractions while driving, such as using mobile phones and eating at the wheel; and careful monitoring of drivers' welfare, to ensure they are fit to drive.
Brake is calling on the Government to:
- Encourage companies to implement a safe driving policy that includes: a commitment to plan all journeys carefully, including the need to make the journey in the first place; a ban on distractions while driving, such as using mobile phones and eating at the wheel; and careful monitoring of drivers' welfare, to ensure they are fit to drive.
- Fund work to engage and advise employers on managing road risk, such as that conducted through Brake's Fleet Safety Forum.
- Require all companies to report, record and analyse crashes, including near-misses, in order to manage their road risk effectively. RIDDOR (Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations) should cover at-work drivers as well as on-site employees.
- Investigate all fatal and serious injury crashes involving someone driving for work, through the Health & Safety Executive (HSE).
- Step up publicity campaigns to warn at-work drivers and fleet managers of specific risks associated with at-work driving and provide advice on how to manage and cut crashes.
- Increase numbers of traffic police and front-line enforcement staff working for the Vehicle & Operator Services Agency (VOSA), to enable adequate levels of enforcement checks on drivers and vehicles.
- Introduce tougher penalties against any company flouting maintenance, driver hours or licensing rules, or putting pressure on its drivers to break the law and drive dangerously.