Commercial drivers warned: hands-free devices offer no immunity from prosecution

News Article

Palmers Partner, Jeremy Sirrell, has warned commercial drivers that they should think twice about using a hands-free phone while driving.

He issued the warning after a woman was convicted of causing death by dangerous driving as a result of being distracted by a hands-free call.

Samantha Ayres, 34, was sentenced at Lincoln Crown Court to three years in prison for killing motorcyclist, David Kirk, whilst travelling on the wrong side of the road during a call on a hands-free mobile phone.

Jeremy Sirrell said: “This case is a useful reminder that, regardless of the legality of using hands-free telephone kits or two-way radios, it is always incumbent upon any driver to make sure that their attention remains firmly focused on the road.

“Miss Ayres was convicted of causing death by dangerous driving because she had failed to observe not only the presence of the motorcyclist but also the fact that she had drifted onto the wrong side of the road, colliding with him and killing him.  She now faces imprisonment.

“The Judge specifically indicated in his judgement that just because a hand free phone is lawful ‘does not alter the fact that it is an actual distraction’.

“Commercial drivers who use hands-free kits or two-way radios need to make sure that their attention remains focused firmly on the road ahead of them and what is happening around them.”

Using a phone without a hands-free kit whilst driving is punishable by a fine and 6 penalty points. The law applies even if you are stopped at traffic lights or queuing in traffic.

Jeremy continued: “Hands-free kits enable the use of mobile telephones by drivers without giving rise to the commission of this specific offence. However, the potential for distraction that any telephone conversation causes must be considered carefully.

“Transport dispatchers need to be aware that their call to a driver could come at an inopportune time, whilst they are completing a tricky manoeuvre or in heavy traffic.

“The telephone conversation must always take secondary priority. Any distraction – and this of course could also include changing channel on the radio, opening a packet of sweets, drinking or eating whilst at the wheel – may amount to such a distraction that the driver is considered not to be in proper control of their vehicle, is driving without due care and attention and in extreme cases may be guilty of dangerous driving.”

He cautions that the final decision regarding whether it is safe to talk on the phone remains with the driver and, if the situation dictates, they should terminate the call and keeptheir attention on the road.

For help and advice on how you can help keep your drivers safe behind the wheel, please contact us.