• International Workplace
  • 17 January 2017

Mobile phones whilst driving: can employees be trusted to switch off?

Hoping employees will simply ‘do the right thing’ and switch off their mobile phones whilst driving is not enough, says road safety charity IAM RoadSmart, which has renewed its calls for car makers and smartphone manufacturers to work with the government to develop a technological solution to distracted drivers.

The call comes as the Department of Transport Minister plans to meet mobile phone manufacturers this month to hammer out proposals to tackle the growing issue of people interacting with their smartphones at the wheel.

This is in addition to the government announcing last November that anyone caught using a hand-held mobile phone while at the wheel of a car would be fined £200 and receive six points on their licence – a doubling of the existing penalty.

Neil Greig, Director of Policy and Research at IAM RoadSmart, said the charity has been calling for a technological solution to a problem caused by technology itself for many years, and welcomed the government’s new industry initiative. 

Greig said:

“It isn’t enough for the providers of this technology to simply say ‘it is up to the individual’.  Every phone in use today already comes with a driving mode that can cut out calls, but they are very rarely used.  This would suggest that ‘carrots or sticks’ may be needed to actually get people to use any new approach.

“Carrots could come in the form of incentives for companies to fit new apps or to ensure their employees switch off on the go. For example, no government contracts unless you have a ‘no mobile phone use’ policy in place. 

“Sticks could come in the form of new penalties, but also links to insurance so your level of cover is reduced if you don’t have the new app switched on when you have a crash.

“The actual detail of the new technology will have to be worked out. But with accurate GPS and more sensitive movement sensors in most phones, it should be possible to target the driver’s phone whilst still allowing the ever-growing range of connected car services such as sat-nav and traffic/tourist information.  Passengers should still have the ability to use phones as well.”

Greig concluded:

“IAM RoadSmart also wants to see the wider issue of distracted driving by technology being taken on board by the industry. The modern dashboard contains a wealth of new services that may assist drivers but can also distract.  A star rating system for in-car complexity would be a useful tool to alert drivers to the different ways they now need to interact with their car.”