From 1 March 2017, penalties for using a handheld phone whilst driving are set to double. If caught, you could be fined up to £200 (up from £100) and receive up to 6 points on your license (up from 3 points). A link to the changes can be found here . This includes sanctions for using a hands free kit but failing to drive with due care and attention. The reasons behind the increase in sanctions include that drivers are not taking a ban on using mobile phones whilst driving seriously and that there has been a marked increase in deaths caused by drivers distracted by their mobile phones.
Employers need to be aware of the potential risks if employees are found using a mobile phone whilst driving. Employers may also be prosecuted if they permit or cause their employees to use a phone or require them to make or receive calls whilst driving. An employer can also be prosecuted even if they provide a hands free kit for employees to use their mobile phones whilst driving if the employee is found not to be in proper control of the vehicle or found to be driving dangerously.
Employers need to ensure their company car policies are up to date and strictly prohibit employees making or receiving calls (unless provided with company approved hands free kit). In circumstances where the employer provides a hands free kit, guidance should be provided on how to use these in the safest possible way. Given that employers can still be found liable if employees fail to drive carefully whilst using a hands free kit, we would always recommend the safest action would be to find somewhere safe to stop before taking a call. Employees should be made aware that this is preferred to answering a call whilst driving.
Guidance should also be provided to managers where contact is made with an employee who is driving. The linked article here provides a useful set of questions to ask an employee who they believe has answered a call whilst driving. Even if the employee believes it is safe for them to talk, the conversation should be as short as possible and managers should be encouraged to call back when the employee is no longer driving.
Capital Law can provide criminal litigation advice, so If you need any further guidance please contact a member of the employment team on 029 2047 4495.
Penalties Even if you’re otherwise driving safely: You could be fined £100 and get three points (£200 and 6 points from 1 March 2017) on your licence. 6 points would mean losing your licence if you're less than two years from passing your test. Refuse to accept the fixed penalty and you could be taken to court. If the police think the offence so bad that a fixed penalty isn’t enough you could be taken to court. Fines in court will almost certainly be larger and disqualification is possible – the maximum fine in a court is £1,000, or £2,500 you were driving a bus or a goods vehicle