Mobile phone rules set to tighten

Fleet and risk managers are being encouraged to review their company policy on mobile phones at the wheel as the rules look set to be tightened.

Coachline, part of the Henshalls Group, specialises in bus, coach and minibus insurance and has warned commercial drivers and the companies they work for that they need to be ready for a potential change in the law.

Coachline’s Phil Cutting says: “Since 2003 it has been an offence under UK law to use a hand-held mobile phone while you’re driving.

“But after a test case, the High Court ruled that the legislation didn’t prohibit all uses of a mobile phone at the wheel – the offence would only be committed when a driver was holding their phone and communicating ‘interactively’ through a voice call, text or email, or they were browsing on a website.

“Now, the Government is planning to close this loophole and tighten the law to prohibit any hand-held use of mobile phones behind the wheel whatsoever.”

The proposed change is out for consultation with particular focus on mobile phones used in a cradle for functions such as a satnav.

“While cradles and hands-free kits are legal, it’s vital that drivers are aware they can carry the same risk of contributing to the cause of an accident as using a hand-held phone at the wheel. If a driver is on the phone – whether it’s hand-held or not – they are much less aware of what’s happening on the road around them which is of course a danger to everyone.”

Cutting adds that if the loophole is closed, drivers would only be allowed to use a hand-held mobile phone at the wheel to make an emergency call or if they were safely parked with the engine switched off.

“Our advice would be to not use a mobile phone at all while driving so set the satnav before you begin your journey and if you need to change it, find a safe place to stop,” says Cutting. 

“With the consultation ongoing, now is a good time for fleet and risk managers to remind drivers about your company’s mobile phone policy so that anyone using a company vehicle is very clear on the rules.”