In March 2017 the government introduced harsher penalties for those caught using a mobile phone whilst driving in a bid to crackdown further on dangerous driving behaviour. The new penalties saw those previously in place doubled; with 6 points and a £200 fine now being handed out to those using a hand held mobile behind the wheel.
Despite the increased penalties aiming to act as a deterrent to mobile phone use, research* suggests that only 37% of drivers believe that these new penalties would stop them using their phone behind the wheel, with 1 in 3 believing that the penalties need to be harsher to really effect change.
Another poll of 1,500 drivers carried out in April 2017^ revealed that 16% of those surveyed admitted to using a hand held mobile phone behind the wheel in the last month, since the new penalties were put in place.
Alongside this there appears to be confusion about the mobile phone use that is acceptable, with many people believing it fine to use a mobile phone whilst stationary and with the engine on, when in fact it is only legal to use your phone when safely parked – not simply stationary.
With 2015 figures showing that 22 people were killed and 99 seriously injured in accidents on UK roads where mobile phone use was a contributing factor it’s vital that this behaviour is tackled.
So if penalties aren’t deterring people, what else can be done? Nissan recently announced a development called Signal Shield; this technology blocks all cellular, Wi-fi and Bluetooth signal once a mobile phone is placed inside a compartment within the vehicle and the lid closed, allowing drivers to choose whether to be contactable during a journey and potentially taking away the temptation to use their mobile whilst driving. Racelogic, a technology company, is also working on a development called TouchLock which would ultimately prevent use of a mobile phone by locking the user out if they attempt to touch their phone whilst moving.
As fleet operators, given that distracted driving is one of the main causes of collisions, now may be a good time to review the procedures and policies you have in place to manage the use of mobile phone technology within your fleet as well as ensuring these are complied with. Professional drivers must also be aware of the rules around mobile use and what is and isn’t deemed legal.
*compiled by mycarneedsa.com, April 2017. Survey of 1,000 people
^ research commission by Co-Op Insurance