Fleet managers are being urged to take action to protect their business and their staff from the risks posed by using a mobile phone while driving, in light of imminent changes to the law.
From March 25, it will become illegal to use a hand-held mobile phone while driving under virtually any circumstance, following amendments to the Road Vehicles (Construction and Use) Regulations.
Currently, the legislation around the use of hand-held mobile phones while driving is open to interpretation and has been difficult for the police to enforce.
The stricter regulations mean drivers are now more likely to receive a £200 fine and six penalty points on their license, if they are caught using a hand-held phone at the wheel. This means an instant ban for HGV drivers or for motorists that passed their test in the last two years.
HGV drivers also face a maximum fine of £2,500 for a mobile phone offense.
The tightening of the law has been welcomed by the road safety community, with research showing that a driver is four times more likely to be involved in a crash if they use a phone at the wheel.
But mobile phone technology developer and road safety advocate, Nick Evans, believes that the new law creates an even bigger concern for employers.
“Companies now need to be more careful than ever about the way that they manage the use of mobile phones while their staff are driving. It is not enough to just tell people not to do something,” he said. “If one of their vehicles or their drivers is involved in a collision as a result of being distracted by a mobile phone, it could have widespread negative implications.”
In 2020 alone, 17 people were killed, 114 people were seriously injured and 385 were slightly injured on the UK’s roads in crashes involving drivers distracted by mobile phones.
But apart from the human cost, in the event of a collision employers also face:
- Loss of driver – due to injury or loss of licence
- Damage to vehicle – inconvenience due to vehicle out of use and cost to repair or replace
- Reduction in service – due to staff and/or vehicles being out of action
- Damage to reputation – press reports or images about the incident
Evans, a driver, cyclist and motorcyclist, became passionate about improving safety on the roads after his son was injured in a serious collision on a motorway eight years ago, aged 10.
In response, he developed the DriveCommander software – an app designed to disable or partially restrict the use of mobile phones while a vehicle is in use.
The technology, which has been successfully used on National Express trains in Germany since 2019, is ideal for companies and can be easily adapted to suit the requirements of individual organisations.
For example, the app can disable a phone completely, except for emergency calls, as soon as it detects that a vehicle is in use, or it can stop all but a few essential incoming calls from certain numbers.
The technology, which costs around £4.99 per unit, per month, not only controls the active use of a mobile phone to text, call or access the internet, but can also remove the risk of distraction caused by a simple sound or alert taking the driver’s attention away from the road.
Furthermore, companies that use the technology are likely to see a considerable reduction in insurance premiums.
Evans added: “So much more can and should be done by organisations to actively reduce the risks posed by mobile phones while driving, one of the leading causes of road death and injury in the UK. Companies are now under increasing pressure, both legally and as part of their corporate social responsibility, to do everything within their power to reduce these risks. We have the technology that can really make a big difference, so let’s use it and help to reduce the horrifying number of deaths and injuries that occur on our roads every single day.”