Use of Hands Free Technology

It has been illegal to use the mobile phone while driving since December 2003 however research shows that hands free use has increased from 22% in 2006 to 38% in 2014. The research, from road safety charity, Brake and Direct Line, found that texting at the wheel is widespread, 30% of drivers admitting to sending or reading messages while driving, and an even higher proportion, 44% of drivers aged 18-24 admitting to it.

Smartphone apps are an additional threat, with 12% of drivers using them at the wheel.

The law states that it is an offence for any driver, in any vehicle, to use a hand held communication device. Hands free phones may be used, but they are ultimately a distraction and you are still open to a charge of careless driving should a police officer think you are driving poorly while using one. Drivers have been prosecuted as a result of using hands free devices while driving.

It is the case that even if an employee uses a mobile device with a hands-free kit, there is a risk of prosecution to the employer if the police can prove that employees were pressured to use devices to the extent that they become distracted by calls or other interactive communications.

An employer may be open to prosecution:

  • If they cause or permit you to drive while using a phone or to not have proper control of the vehicle.
  • If they require you to make or receive calls whilst driving.
  • If you drive dangerously because you are using a phone provided by your employer.

Using mobile phones can cause drivers to take their:

  • Eyes off the road (visual distraction);
  • Minds off the road (cognitive distraction);
  • Hands off the steering wheel (physical distraction);
  • Longer reaction times to detect and respond to unexpected driving-related events;
  • Impaired ability to maintain correct lane position;
  • Slower braking reactions with more intensive braking and shorter stopping distances;
  • Impaired ability to maintain an appropriate speed (i.e. usually driving slower);
  • Slower reactions to traffic signals/missed signals;
  • Reduced field of view (i.e. drivers more likely to look straight ahead and not at periphery or in mirrors);
  • Shorter following distances;
  • Accepting gaps in traffic streams that do not give sufficient time for the driver to safely manoeuvre the vehicle into the traffic flow;
  • Increased mental workload, resulting in higher levels of stress and frustration;
  • Reduced driver-awareness of what is happening around them.

Road safety charity, brake, and The AA have recently advised that hands free phones should be banned. Employers should have a documented mobile phone use policy for drivers.

For the full article please click here..

For our Mobile Phones and Driving - Driver's Responsibilities article, please click here...