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Wednesday, 14 August 2019 18:22

Phoning Whilst Driving - Company Responsibilities

You may have seen or heard the story this week of the Commons transport committee’s recommendation that making hands-free calls whilst driving should be made illegal. The committee’s research suggests that the ‘cognitive distraction’ of making a hands-free call increases the likelihood of a driver crashing by up to four times; just as much as making a hand-held call.

Indeed, only this week a driver has been sentenced to 10 years in prison after pleading guilty to causing four deaths and one count of serious injury by dangerous driving. He had been changing the music on his mobile phone.

As businesses, we should remain aware of our duty of care to our employees and refrain from putting them in any positions that could endanger them. We should also be aware of the consequences. Asking employees to handle calls or texts whilst driving for example, could mean prosecution for employers, up to Corporate Manslaughter if the worst was to happen.

If a business provides a mobile phone to employees, or reimburses the cost of work related calls and texts on private phones, they will make themselves culpable to any associated offence if their employees are put in a position where they are expected to make or receive calls whilst driving.

Currently it is illegal to use a hand-held mobile phone whilst driving and it is also illegal to “cause or permit” a driver to use a hand-held phone whilst driving. Therefore, an employer who requires employees to use handheld phones whilst driving will be equally as liable as the driver.

The recommendation from the Commons transport committee highlights that even hands-free mobile phones can cause distraction meaning the driver is not in complete control nor driving with appropriate attention. However, if a police investigation determined that it was the use of the hands-free phone for a work-related matter that contributed to an accident, the employer could be found to be liable under current rules.

Existing penalties for private drivers include six penalty points and fines up to £200 which could mean a ban if you’ve passed your test within the last two years. The transport committee has recommended that using a hands-free phone should carry the same penalties.

In a worst case scenario, if a fatality ensued involving a business that required drivers to use mobile phones whilst driving, the directors of that business could be prosecuted for corporate manslaughter.

It is not enough not to require employees to use mobile phones whilst driving. We recommend that employers actively forbid their use and that this is clearly laid out in a robust mobile phone policy. You may even consider that any use of a mobile device whilst driving a company vehicle or whilst on company business is a gross misconduct offence. With the available functionality of modern smartphones, your policy should go further than the making or receiving of calls and should include texting or messaging, playing music, taking photos and gaming.

Drivers should wait until they are safely parked before using their phones and remember that being stopped at traffic lights or in heavy traffic does not count as being parked.

It’s also worthwhile making sure that any office-based staff are equally aware of the rules so that they are not tempted to make calls to colleagues who are driving, thereby inadvertently leaving your company open to prosecution.

For further details or help with your company mobile phone policy, call us on 01452 331331 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Read 101 times Last modified on Thursday, 15 August 2019 12:01

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