Mobile Phones Whilst Driving – Be Safe, Not Sorry

5th May  2017

What does it take to stop you from using your mobile phone whilst you’re driving?

Watch the film and let me know what you think?

The imagery contained in this video link is not for the feint hearted. – video removed

It’s been illegal to drive and use your mobile phone since 2003.  Yet, how many times have you sat in your car on the motorway and watched someone pass you on the outside lane doing 90 with a phone jammed up on their shoulder?  Or you’ve witnessed some clown driving around the high street, rabbiting away without a care in the world on their mobile?

I would suggest that since the launch of the mobile phone some 30 odd years ago, mobile users have learnt a whole bunch of bad habits and just thought that they could do anything in a car.  With cruise control and an automatic drive, yes why not slip in a call? Drivers believe that they can multi-task whilst driving a car.  Really? 

If you watched the video link, you witnessed the deadly consequences of a distracted truck driver who killed 4 people as he was changing his music selection on his mobile phone whilst driving.

Dangers of Using Your Phone and Driving

Drivers who use a mobile phone are four times more likely to crash, and/or to injure or kill themselves as well as others and, it’s been suggested that one’s response time can be reduced by 40%, if you text whilst driving.

  • You are less aware of what’s happening on the road around you
  • You may fail to see road signs
  • Fail to maintain correct lane position and keep a steady speed
  • Are much more likely to ‘tailgate’ vehicles in front
  • Take longer to brake and therefore longer to stop
  • Are more likely to drive in an unsafe manner to other road users
  • Get more stressed and frustrated, because of using your mobile whilst driving

Well the show is over, there have been just one too many stories of driver negligence with someone paying the price with their life.  In 2015, 22 people were killed and 99 were seriously injured, by drivers using their mobile phones whilst driving. 

New UK driving laws have come of age.  Fines and points have drastically increased with an aim to stop drivers using their mobiles phones whilst driving.  Don’t be thinking that you can get out of it by telling a tall tale of your calls importance!  The UK police force are under strict instructions to crack down on offenders and both police car/motorcycle units, plain clothes officers in unmarked cars, as well as technology is being deployed in the crackdown. 

New Mobile Phone Rules

The new rules in simple form:

  • If you are caught using your mobile whilst driving your car, you will now incur 6 points added to your licence and a £200 fine.
  • New drivers with licences under two years old, will have their licence disqualified.
  • If you are caught whilst driving a van, goods vehicle, lorry, bus or coach the fine can reach a maximum of £2,500.

This law applies when you’ve stopped at traffic lights, in traffic, just on a small road and, even if the engine is running.  Voice activated software and smart watches are legal for the moment, but again they can be distracting. If the police believe in any way, that you are being distracted even by using your handsfree unit or such equipment, they have the power to stop you.  Police can hand out a Fixed Penalty Notice (FPN) on the spot. However, if you have too many points on your licence already, or if you refuse the FPN, you will be sent to Court to be dealt with.

And remember you only need to be seen by a Police Officer, their testimony is regarded as that of a professional witness. In the Australian state of Victoria, police use AI to catch motorists using their phone while driving.

Driving Handsfree

What about using handsfree?  You are permitted to use fully handsfree units, but you are not allowed to pick up or touch the phone, even just for a moment.  That certainly includes texting, social media, video clips, podcasts or anything else.  If you must use handsfree, keep it to short, simple and voice only.  You can only use a phone hand held, if you need to call 999 or 112 in an emergency and it is unsafe or unpractical to stop.  But it had better be an emergency.

Company Liability

In the film earlier, lorry driver Tomasz Kroker, was on his mobile whilst driving and killed a mother and three children.  He was jailed for 10 years.   

This part is particularly important regarding a company’s corporate responsibility:  Since February 2016, if your employee is caught using a mobile phone whilst driving, acting in the course of your employ, the law may pursue a course of action holding the company responsible and open for prosecution for the employee’s reckless misconduct. 

Fines for companies, who are charged for an employee causing a death or serious injury whilst driving under the Health and Safety act, are now uncapped and will be based on % of turnover – not profit!  Company directors may also face custodial sentences (as well as the drivers) for failing to implement measures to ensure the safety of their employees and other road users. 

Your Responsibilities

So, what can you do? 

  • Install a professionally fitted handsfree kit. 
  • Remove the temptation, switch it off, put it under your driver’s seat, or in glove box.  Use it only when you have stopped safely and the engine is off.
  • As an employer, make sure to regularly inform your team about the law and its implications when calling colleagues on their mobile if they are driving.

And for those into technology, there are apps which will stop your mobile phone from working when you get into your car and as the car picks up speed past 5mph.  The mobile is disabled, allowing your colleague to drive safely. to download.