The risk of answering calls while driving


Using a hand-held or hands-free mobile phone while driving is a significant distraction, and substantially increases the risk of the driver crashing.

On December, 1, 2003, a law, “The Road Vehicles (Construction and Use) (Amendment) (No. 4) Regulations 2003”, came into force to prohibit drivers using a hand-held mobile phone, or similar device, while driving. As of March, 1, 2017, the penalty increased to a £200 fine and six penalty points added to the drivers’ licence.

Drivers who use a mobile phone, whether hand-held or hands-free:

  • Are much less aware of what’s happening on the road around them
  • Fail to see road signs
  • Fail to maintain proper lane position and steady speed
  • Are more likely to ‘tailgate’ the vehicle in front
  • React more slowly, take longer to brake and longer to stop
  • Are more likely to enter unsafe gaps in traffic
  • Feel more stressed and frustrated

They are also four times more likely to crash, injuring or killing themselves and other people.

Contrary to popular belief, using a hands-free phone while driving does not significantly reduce the risks. This is because the problems are caused mainly by the mental distraction and divided attention of taking part in a phone conversation at the same time as driving. They require the driver to concentrate on two complex tasks at the same time, and tempt drivers to take their eyes of the road and onto the screen.

The general view is that, if you are not taking your eyes off the road to use a mobile phone, then you are not distracted and are perfectly aware of everything going on around you, but this isn’t the case. Numerous studies have shown that using hands-free has a seriously detrimental impact on a driver’s ability, and could have disastrous consequences, particularly for vulnerable road users.

Advice for employers

For those who employ drivers, make sure that the policy clearly states that anyone driving on company business, whether in a company vehicle, their own vehicle or a hire vehicle, should never make or receive calls, send or read texts or emails, take, send or view photos or films, use apps or surf the internet on a mobile phone, or any similar device, while driving.

Advise drivers, and all other employees, to set phones to voicemail and to retrieve and respond to messages during breaks. Ideally, phones should be switched off and put out of reach (e.g., in the glove compartment), so the driver is not tempted to switch it on or to answer it if it rings.

RoSPA strongly advises that this policy applies to both hand-held and hands-free phones because using a hands-free phone while driving is a significant distraction that substantially increases the risk of crashing.

If your vehicles are fitted with equipment to facilitate the use of hands-free phones, make it clear to drivers that they must not use these phones while driving and that they understand why not.

There is no phone call that is worth risking your life, or the lives of others.

Whilst care has been taken in the production of this article and the information contained within it has been obtained from sources that Aon UK Limited believes to be reliable, Aon UK Limited does not warrant, represent or guarantee the accuracy, adequacy, completeness or fitness for any purpose of the article or any part of it and can accept no liability for any loss incurred in any way whatsoever by any person who may rely on it. In any case any recipient shall be entirely responsible for the use to which it puts this article. This article has been compiled using information available to us up to 13/12/18.

This article is part of series on risk management advice for hauliers. Other articles in this can be found at the bottom of the page:

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