Company owners and fleet managers are being urged to change business practices and sack – or severely discipline - staff found guilty of breaching the laws on the use of mobile phones while driving.
The call follows research by The Fuelcard Company into present-day driving distractions. The findings highlight that, even though drivers are four times more likely to crash while using a mobile, only 12 per cent had stopped making calls while driving and almost 40 per cent do not own a hands free kit.
With the Corporate Manslaughter Act now incorporating The Health and Safety Offences Act 2008, fleet or company car drivers, and even their bosses, are now at risk of long jail terms if prosecuted for dangerous driving – including texting or answering a call.
Fuelcard, which works with thousands of companies across the UK, is urging fleet managers to review legislation and establish a strict mobile-while-driving policy and ensure that all staff follow the guidelines to reduce the risk of accidents and prosecution.
Marketing director Jakes de Kock said: “These findings highlight that whilst we are all aware of the risks of using a mobile phone when driving, many people are ignoring them which is incredibly dangerous – both to the driver and the company.
“If there is an accident and the correct procedures haven’t been followed, courts will hold fleet managers and company owners accountable and this could result in legal action against them.”
Large numbers of business fleet drivers are away from the office at any given time and need, constantly, to be in contact with colleagues and clients. However, using a mobile while driving can reduce reaction times by 50 per cent compared to normal driving, while even glancing at a phone causes a split second distraction, which could result in an accident.
The research also detailed the potential distractions that, with the technological advances of the last decade, have become “part of day-to-day journeys”. These include changing a CD /radio station, altering a SatNav, minding children, lighting a cigarette and even having a conversation. Others were generated by the external environment; for example, animals in the road or low-flying birds, dramatic sunsets, oncoming traffic and roadside incidents.
Mr De Kock said: “The findings also highlight just how susceptible many regular drivers are to a variety of in-car and external distractions.
“With increasingly sophisticated communications technology, it is becoming apparent that the number and level is rising.”