By Sean Joyce, partner, Stephensons Solicitors LLP
The punishment for using a hand-held mobile telephone while driving increased from February 2007.
For car drivers the maximum fine is £2,500. In each case there are three penalty points.
Nevertheless, we have seen the number of prosecutions for this type of offence soar in the last 12 months.
Using a mobile phone, along with other increased penalties under The Road Safety Act 2006 – plus the proliferation of speed cameras – makes driving bans for business car drivers more likely.
Disqualification can mean temporary loss of income for drivers. For employers it can mean loss of staff. This is costly for all involved and places pressure on employers to implement effective mobile phone and driving policies.
Many employers have these in place but either don’t enforce them or don’t realise that they’re simply inadequate.
The police now routinely obtain mobile phone records of drivers involved in serious road accidents. These records are called on in evidence and used to justify a serious charge of Driving without Due Care and Attention, or even Dangerous Driving.
Employers don’t escape lightly either. If your working practices effectively encourage staff to make or receive calls while driving, then the employer could be prosecuted for a causing or permitting offence.
What actions should a business take?
Employers must consider their drivers’ needs; and take steps to protect themselves in the event of prosecution.
Employers are legally obliged to have a policy on mobile phone use if they are to avoid liability. Telling staff not to do it or even providing hands-free kits may not be sufficient.
A business can be heavily fined. Convictions can lead to increased vehicle insurance. In the worst case a corporate manslaughter charge against the directors could arise.
I regularly see owners of small businesses prosecuted for motoring offences committed by employees. Business owners don’t realise just how vulnerable they are from the actions of their staff until it’s too late.
Take action to protect you and your business by introducing simple but effective written policies on mobile phone use for staff who drive.
Further information on using a mobile phone
- Go to our Law & Tax section for additional information on The law and mobile phones
- Further assistance is available from Sean Joyce and Stephensons Solicitors LLP through free membership of ‘Carry on Driving’, a 24 hour helpline operated by specialist road traffic lawyers. Call 08450 020 736 for free advice.
- This advice correct at time of posting – March 2008