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The Dangers of Driving while using a Mobile Phone Hand Held or Hands Free. Wiser to use a Telephone Answering Service?

Road safety charity BRAKE in it’s guidance on Eliminating Driver Distractions, advocates a complete ban on mobile phone use, hands free or otherwise, whilst driving. Roz Cumming, Fleet Safety Forum Manager at Brake, said “It is all too tempting for drivers to let their mind wander from their driving – yet in a split second their distraction can cause death.’

The information goes on to question, if being on the phone for business whilst driving creates the right impression? Speaking on the phone in the car whilst driving makes you sound distracted and frantic. You are unable to consult relevant paperwork or take notes. Consider how irritating it might be for the person you are calling, especially if reception fails and you get cut off.

Having considered the following research carefully and factoring in the statistic that only 1 in 5 people will leave voice mail, we believe that there is a much safer and far more professional approach than diverting the office phone to your mobile. Use a telephone answering service preferably the services of our fabulous team at Answer it. However safety first and even if you do want to use a telephone answering service and you prefer to just use voice mail, make a change and be safe! No telephone call, no matter how great the deal, can compare to the devastating effects that could be caused by you, speaking on the telephone whilst driving. No telephone call is that important.

December 2003 saw the introduction of a fixed penalty for drivers using a hand held mobile phone whilst driving. In February 2007 the fixed penalty was doubled and there was an addition of 3 penalty points. This new law now includes an additional offence. ‘Causing or permitting a driver to use a hand held phone whilst driving.’

Obviously this puts the onus of responsibility, and therefore liability, onto the employer. ROSPA (Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents) points out that installing hands free kits, whilst not contravening the ban, does mean that employers may still fall foul of health and safety laws. If an investigation was to determine that the use of the phone contributed to an accident they could still be held responsible.

ROSPA point out that in certain circumstances even driving hands free can be illegal. Depending on the individual circumstances drivers could be charged with ‘Failing to have proper control of their vehicle’ or could even be prosecuted for ‘Careless and dangerous driving’

The Transport Research Laboratory conducted a series of studies that underlines the dangers of using hand held and hands free mobile phones when driving.

In the first study the TRL research team concluded that in some aspects of driving the impairment of using a hands free phone whilst driving was worse than that of having the legal blood alcohol limit (80mg / 100ml.) This level of impairment, worse than this widely accepted benchmark of reasonable performance, highlights the increased accident risk caused by mobile phone conversations when driving. In closing the research states that. ‘Drivers need to be strongly discouraged from any mobile phone activity whilst behind the wheel’

The second study was intended to benchmark the impairment to driving caused by use of a hands free mobile phone against other in car activities such as adjusting the radio or temperature controls. The research shows that drivers making a hands free call were more distracted, showed worse response time, poorer speed control and a marked reduction in situation awareness when compared to other activites. The study also points out that there was a; ‘distinct effect on the quality and character of the conversation. The rate of talking, the number of pauses, number of errors and performance on verbal and numerical reasoning tasks all deteriorate when driving at the same time.’

ROSPA’s guidelines to employers illustrates the need to raise awareness amongst staff of the dangers of using a mobile phone, even hands free whilst driving. They recommend that mobile phones are switched off whilst driving and point out that good communication is still achievable without using a phone whilst driving.

We certainly believe good communication is still possible even with a mobile phone switched off, we have a great solution. www.answer-it.co.uk

A Cambridgeshire police spokesperson said: “The law clearly states that it is illegal to use a hand held mobile phone whilst driving and we will continue to prosecute people putting the lives of other road users in danger.

Driver concentration is paramount to road safety and care should be exercised when doing anything behind the wheel that could potentially distract you from the road.”