Following the ban on using a hand-held phone while driving, safety campaigners are urging fleets to review their policies around mobile phone and infotainment use. According to road safety groups, training should include allowing drivers to feel comfortable to not take calls while driving.
Jason Wakeford, head of campaigns at road safety charity Brake, is urging fleets to take this change in law as an opportunity to tighten up road risk polices: “We hope fleet managers will now do even more to educate drivers about the risks of using mobile phones.”
Simon Turner, campaign manager for Driving for Better Business said: “To be compliant, and to ensure the safety of staff, other road users and pedestrians, it’s essential that leaders integrate information surrounding the use of mobile phones into their driving for work policy. Regular checks should be carried out to ensure that all employees have read and understood the guidelines and are complying with them.”
Technology can help monitor driver behaviour with equipment such as dashcams with a driver-facing camera, says Saul Jeavons, director of road safety consultancy, The Transafe Network.
“The key is to win hearts and minds by educating drivers alongside any technological measures such as blocking apps or dashcams,” he said.
TTC, a provider of driver training and safety programmes, says best practice is to ensure that sat-navs are programmed before drivers set off, and that all other potential distractions such as music choice are avoided while at the wheel.
“This change in laws is coming at a time when we already have a significant number of drivers approaching a ban due to an accumulation of points,” said Andy Wheeler, business development director at TTC Group. “The introduction will see these drivers at serious risk from being removed from the roads for a single, if serious, infraction.”
New law a ‘missed opportunity”
Road safety experts have labelled the new rules on using mobile phones while driving a “missed opportunity”.
Drivers can get 6 penalty points and a £200 fine if they use a hand-held phone when driving. Drivers who passed their test in the last 2 years will also lose their licence. If taken to court for not having a full view of the road and traffic ahead or proper control of the vehicle, drivers could be banned from driving — with a maximum fine of £2,500 for lorry and bus drivers.
However, hands-free calls are still permitted and the potential risks around distracted driving from infotainment systems remains unresolved.
Shaun Helman, chief scientist for behavioural and data sciences at TRL (Transport Research Laboratory), welcomed the legislation being updated, but believes it could have a negative impact by retaining the focus on hand-held devices.
“It reinforces the myth that’s the most important thing. There are four types of distraction: manual, visual, auditory, and cognitive. What this law still does is focus on just one of those.
“In that sense, it’s a missed opportunity and it’s maintaining this flawed narrative that, as long as you’re not holding something, you’re safe.”
It was already illegal to text or make a phone call (other than in an emergency) using a hand-held device while driving.
Research from IAM RoadSmart, published last year, showed that infotainment systems impair reactions times behind the wheel more than alcohol and cannabis use.
The study found that reaction times at motorway speeds increased average stopping distances to between four and five car lengths, drivers took their eyes off the road for as long as 16 seconds while driving and using touch control resulted in reaction times that were even worse than texting while driving.
While the law does not have a specific offence taking attention away from the road too long, the offences of careless driving and dangerous driving are often applied where there is clear evidence that a driver is unduly distracted by an in-vehicle function that can lead to the standard of driving falling below that of a competent and careful driver.
Fleet risk director at Driive Consulting, Alison Moriarty, agrees that more focus should be placed on making safer infotainment systems: “I think that there needs to be a holistic industry working group set up to mitigate the risks associated with distracted driving. This needs to include the vehicle manufacturers who are including increasingly more infotainment options in vehicles. Any of these systems need to include rigorous safety features to stop drivers accessing them while driving.”
What are the rules?
You must stay in full control of your vehicle at all times. The police can stop you if they think you’re not in control because you’re distracted, and you can be prosecuted.
The law still applies to you if you’re:
When you can use a hand-held phone
You can use a hand-held phone if either of these apply:
You can get 6 penalty points and a £200 fine if you use a hand-held phone when driving. You’ll also lose your licence if you passed your driving test in the last 2 years.
You can get 3 penalty points if you don’t have a full view of the road and traffic ahead or proper control of the vehicle.
You can also be taken to court where you can:
Source: www.gov.uk (4th January 2022) and Fleet News