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Mobile phone ban – the risk to business

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Well mobile phones in cars haven’t actually been banned but there is some important new law that affects the use of hand held mobile phones in cars and there are significant risks for businesses, writes technology lawyer Tim Cook.

The Road Vehicles (Construction and Use) (Amendment) (No. 4) Regulations 2003 came into force this week.

Firstly the Regulations make it an offence to use a mobile phone while driving. Offenders will be given immediate on-the-spot fines of £30 and may be fined up to £1,000 if the matter goes to court. The government is also considering introducing legislation that would make the offence endorseable so drivers would get three points on their licence for each offence.

Secondly, the Regulations apply to "anyone who causes or permits any other person" to use a Mobile while driving and this means that businesses may be liable (and also face fines of up to £1,000 etc) if their employees use a Mobile while driving.

The Department for Transport has published guidance on the new Regulations and the implications are very important. The DoT guidance says that businesses would probably be liable if:

(i) they require employees to use a Mobile while driving, and/ or

(ii) they fail to forbid employees to use a Mobile on company business.

The Regulations are drafted in such a way that the use of hands free kit while driving may also constitute an offence.

In order to avoid committing the offence the vehicle must be parked with the engine switched off before the Mobile can be used.

It is also worth remembering that there is potential criminal liability for those who use a mobile while driving. Drivers risk prosecution for failing to have proper control of their vehicle, careless driving, reckless driving or even causing death by reckless driving if the use of a mobile affects their driving in that way.

Business should consider their employment contracts and policies to ensure that the risk of liability is minimised. Also individuals should beware!

Copyright © 2003, Taylor Walton. All rights reserved.

Taylor Walton supplies a comprehensive range of commercial legal services. If you want to discuss the content of this article or any other commercial matter, please email Tim Cook or call 01582 731161.

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