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UK Split Over Safety Of Using Hands-free Phones In Cars 17 July 2003

With the UK revving up to a ban on using handheld mobile phones whilst driving, more of us are likely to turn to the hands-free kit. But health and safety expert Croner warns of the dangers of talking at the wheel, and reveals that the nation is split over the issue.

Croner, the UK's leading supplier of business information, support and advice, asked health and safety professionals if hands-free kits should be banned at the wheel. 51% were in favour of a total ban, 47% thought we should be able to talk hands-free while driving, and just 3% were unsure.

Driving is now officially the most dangerous activity within the workplace environment, with an increasing amount of working hours spent in the car.

Engaging in conversation whilst driving quadruples the risk of collision, affects reaction times, judgement and awareness of other traffic. Yet 34% of people that use their car for work admit to making work-related calls or texting while driving.

A ban of hands-held phones will be enforced on 1 December, however this does not include hands-free kits because it would be too difficult to enforce.  Croner urges businesses to consider discouraging mobile phone use completely in their Company Car Policy.

Trevor Davies, health and safety expert and consultant at Croner said: "After December, businesses that permit drivers to use hand-held mobile phones while driving will be committing a punishable offence. But it seems that just over half of businesses are putting work ahead of safety by continuing to permit hands-free phone use at the wheel. Employers should seriously consider banning the hands-free kit, as research indicates that it is engaging in conversation that distracts drivers, rather than holding the phone."

There are currently no records of the number of road accidents caused by mobile phone use, but with 70% more cars on the road now than in 1976, the health and safety of people driving for work should be high priority for businesses.

Trevor advises: "Every employer has a duty to provide a safe working environment for their employees - and that includes driving a company vehicle or driving on behalf of the business. Employers must take all practical measures to ensure the safety of their staff and anyone they come in to contact with over the course of their work, and Croner would recommend restricting or prohibiting hands-free phone kits in cars.

"If a driver then chooses to ignore Company guidelines and uses their phone while driving, the employer will not be liable."

Trevor stresses: "Employers of all sizes must take this risk seriously and exhort best practice, as both the number of cars and mobile phone users is increasing year on year. Businesses who turn a blind eye may pay the penalty of prosecution or, at worst, cause the death of an employee or civilians."

Croner provides a comprehensive range of health and safety manuals, CD ROMs, bulletins, and internet support. Croner Consulting, the specialist consulting division of Croner offers help and advice to companies on formulating or updating their health and safety policies and procedures.

The poll was carried out in Croner's www.healthandsafety-cente.net website, which has 7,200 registered
users who work in health and safety. Croner asked the question: "Do you think hands-free phone sets should be included in the upcoming ban on drivers using mobile phones?" The results were 'Yes' - 51%, 'No' - 47%, 'Don't know' - 3%.

About Croner
Croner is the UK's leading provider of business information, advice and support. Croner operates across the UK offering clients from small business to national corporations, Government departments and public and private organisations, appropriate solutions to issues that affect their operations, in formats from paper manuals and software packages, to telephone helplines, internet solutions and consultancy.