Mobile phone usage in vehicles – are you guilty?
Stats that’ll make you stop
“Hello…? I’m in the car – I can’t talk right now…but how was your day?”
We all know making hand-held calls and texting while driving is stupidly dangerous and we’d never do it… Or do we? Does the above sound familiar?
As the latest official figures show another rise in the number of drivers spotted using their phones at the wheel, experts have found that mobile use was a factor in at least 26 fatal crashes in a year.
UK law has banned the use of mobiles while driving since 2003, when being caught could mean a fixed penalty of £30. The penalty increased to £60 and three penalty points in 2007. In 2013 it rose again to £100 plus points.
But the latest increase in penalties has not halted a gradual rise in the estimated use of hand-held phones while driving. It is now particularly prevalent among young drivers, and, worryingly for commercial fleet managers, van drivers.
Experts monitored 60 roads in England and 30 in Scotland and found that the majority of those observed using mobiles appeared to be texting or checking the internet or social media.
Male drivers were more likely to be using a mobile, although women were more likely to be using one while stationary at traffic lights or in queues, which is still an offence. Professional bus, coach and minibus drivers were the least likely category to be seen using a mobile.
The number of road deaths where the driver was using a mobile phone reached 26 in 2013.There were also 95 serious injuries and 539 minor injuries. The number crashes caused by mobile phone use has risen to 422.
Neil Greig, director of policy and research at the Institute of Advanced motorists (IAM), said at the time: “Mobile phone usage at the wheel can kill – there's no two ways about it. The horrendous figures for van users show that fleets and companies must have clear and consistent mobile phone policies that are enforced.”
Our law now includes the offence of ‘causing or permitting’ a driver to use a hand-held phone while driving. This particularly applies to employers who are guilty of an offence if they ‘require or permit staff’ to use a hand-held mobile while driving. Even supplying staff with hands-free kits could land companies in trouble with health and safety laws if an investigation found that the phone contributed to an accident.
A free guide from the Health and Safety Executive explains that employers have a duty under health and safety law to provide employees with clear guidance on the use of mobile phones.
The safety experts say that use of hand-held or hands-free phones while driving should be prohibited and drivers should simply let their phone take messages and return calls when stopped safely.
- Devices and apps to control mobile use while driving have started appearing on the market. This can involve a small solar-powered device on the windscreen and an app on the phone. Together they prevent the phone being used while the vehicle is being driven. One of the leading providers is Cell Control.