Roads Minister Baroness Vere unveiled government plans in October, which would mean that people using a hand-held mobile phone in all circumstances while driving will be breaking the law.
As most of us know, it’s already a criminal offence to use a hand-held mobile phone to call or text while driving – but did you know that other actions such as taking photos are not illegal? Clearly such actions are distracting and could be dangerous, but drivers have escaped punishment in the past, because of a legal loophole. This loophole means that a driver could argue that taking a photo is not an ‘interactive communication’, and believe it or not, this means it does not come under the current definition of the offence.
There is some discussion on exemptions, including using a mobile device for contactless payment – the vehicle must be stationary of course, and the purchased goods or services, such as takeaways or fast food, would need to be delivered immediately. There are plans for an exemption on the use of Sat Nav, if the device is in a phone cradle.
Driver behaviour – mobile use
There is a challenge here with driver education and ensuring your drivers are fully engaged with the safety benefits that such a law is intended to deliver. Do your driver policies outline how your drivers should be using mobile devices during their working day?
A recent project, commissioned by the Department for Transport and carried out by the University of Leeds, examined footage of 51 drivers and their 765 trips. Of the 662 mobile phone interactions that were observed, only 38 were completely hands-free.
The sobering reality is that at 30mph, a car travels 100 feet in 2.3 seconds – so even a split-second lapse in attention while your drivers are skipping a song on their playlist, or checking an app on their phone could result in a crash.
Fleet Managers – have your say
This consultation introduces the proposals which would mean that if your drivers are caught taking photos, playing games or indeed doing anything on their phone while behind the wheel, there will be absolute clarity that they will be breaking the law on mobile phone use.