Safety-focused businesses should ban employees from using all mobile phones while driving after a company director was believed to have become the first person in Britain to be convicted of careless driving over the use of a hands-free mobile phone. The landmark court case has a significant impact for all businesses, as well as public sector fleets.
Although, only the use of a hand-held mobile phone while driving is against the law, best practice advice says that using a hands-free mobile phone is equally dangerous. Department for Transport research reveals that using a mobile behind the wheel makes drivers four times more likely to have a crash.
Lynne-Marie Howden (43), a director and head of sales at business consultancy company Insights, was found not guilty of causing death by dangerous driving after crashing into another car on the A429 in Warwickshire in November 2007. However, she was convicted on the lesser charge of careless driving and was banned from driving for 12 months and fined £2,000.
Warwick Crown Court had been told that the businesswoman, from Northamptonshire, had been involved in conversations on her hands-free mobile phone with her boyfriend and then a work colleague when, driving her Mercedes CLK 220 at around 40 mph in a 60 mph speed limit, she ploughed into an oncoming car on the opposte side of the road. The driver died at the scene of the crash.
Within days, Labour peer Lord Ahmed (51) who sent and received text messages minutes before he was involved in a fatal crash on the M1 was jailed for 12 weeks. He was driving his Jaguar when he hit a stationary car in the outside lane of the motorway on Christmas Day 2007 - Martyn Gombar (28), of Greater Manchester, was killed. Lord Ahmed, of Rotherham, had admitted driving dangerously and was also banned from driving for a year and ordered to pay £500 prosecution costs. However, he is appealing against the sentence.
Using a hand-held mobile phone while driving was made illegal in December 2003. Two years ago, in February 2007, the Government toughened the punishment for offenders to three penalty points and increased the fine from £30 to £60.