The recent case of lorry driver Tomasz Kroker, who was found guilty of causing death by dangerous driving and causing serious injury by dangerous driving has yet again highlighted the potentially devastating consequences of using a hand held mobile device whilst driving. In addition to the tragic consequences for the family of the victims, what is shocking is that only hours before the driver had signed a declaration from his employer prohibiting the use of a mobile phone whilst at the wheel.
The government is currently introducing legislation to increase the number of penalty points for the offence from 3 to 6 and the fixed penalty from £100 to £200. However, it will be 2017 before the new penalties come into force. Traffic Commissioners have already taken steps to send a message to commercial drivers that using a hand held mobile device whilst driving is not considered acceptable behaviour for a professional driver. Those drivers who are issued with a fixed penalty for a first offence of using a mobile phone which occurs in a commercial vehicle should expect to receive a letter calling them to a driver conduct hearing and may be looking at not less than a 4 week suspension of their professional licence entitlement. Professional drivers who are persistent offenders will have their period of suspension increased accordingly.
Significant periods of suspension have an effect not just on the driver but also on the employer, who is faced with a long period of absence or having to find a replacement driver. As the Tomasz Kroker case has showed, getting drivers to sign declarations may not be enough to persuade drivers to forgo their addiction to their mobiles. Employers may now have to consider the effectiveness of their mobile phone policy and ask themselves if it needs to be tightened.
If you would like advice on any aspects of mobile phone offences, please contact me on 01756 790631