By Simon turner, campaign manager for Driving for Better Business Business
By now, all professional drivers and fleet managers should know the new mobile phone rules that came into force, banning drivers from using their phones to take photos or videos, scroll through playlists or play games.
If not, now’s the time to explain the legislation to everyone who uses a vehicle for work to avoid falling foul of the law.
HSE guidelines for employees driving at work state that “health and safety law applies to on-the-road work activities as to all work activities and the risks should be effectively managed within a health and safety system”.
It’s worth reminding ourselves that it was already illegal to use a hand-held mobile phone while driving and illegal to “cause or permit” a driver to use a hand-held phone while driving. An employer who requires employees to use handheld phones when driving is as liable as the driver.
Focusing on the physical act of holding a device can lull drivers into a false sense of what’s right and wrong: hand-held is illegal, therefore dangerous; hands-free not illegal, therefore “safe”.
All the research points to the mental distraction of the act of holding a conversation – rather than the act of holding a phone. Your brain wants to visualise aspects of the conversation and needs to think about the answers to any questions, all of which reduces its ability to process the visual information coming in about the road ahead.
And it’s not like chatting with a passenger in the vehicle, who can see when it’s time to pause the discussion. In fact, you are four times more likely to be involved in a collision, resulting in injury, even when using hands-free options.
A Driving for Better Business (DfBB) survey showed one-in-six drivers (17%) was involved in an incident while on the phone to their boss or a colleague.
What can employers do to make driving safer for their employees and those sharing the road with them?
Many well-known companies have clear bans on phone use while driving for all employees and they are making it work effectively: despatchers know when it’s safe to check for updates on deliveries; drivers make contact when they are not on the move; and from the top down, everyone in the organisation knows the rules and sticks to them.