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TROUBLE Companies could be taken to court over their employees' actions while behind the wheel
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FIRMS could be sued if their drivers cause accidents while on the phone, a fleet risk company has said.

It is illegal to use a phone without a hands-free kit in the UK, but E-Training World, a Chichester firm, says that’s not enough to protect companies.

If a firm knows its employes make frequent calls either hands-free or not, they could be at risk of being taken to court over the ‘distracted driving’ of their employees.

Jonathan Mosley, director of sales and marketing at E-Training World, said it won’t be long before there are blanket bans on using mobile phones in cars.

He said: ‘We are principally referring to hands free, however companies need to realise that they would also come under scrutiny if a driver caused an incident using a handheld phone whilst driving.

‘It’s against the law but the police and HSE would look into whether the company knew the driver made frequent calls whilst on the move, were calls made to the driver from the company whilst they knew he was out on the road, had they supplied the driver with a hands free kit, and if not how did they expect him to make calls safely on the move.

‘At the end of the day, the driver and vehicle are the responsibility of the company if that person is driving on behalf of business – and this can extend to the smallest of journeys such as someone using their own car to visit a client one mile away.

‘If an accident occurs the company needs to prove it had taken necessary steps to ensure that driver and vehicle were safe and if they can’t prove that then they could be liable, along with the driver.’

Companies in the US are already being taken to court over this issue.

Estimates by the US National Safety Council show that a quarter of all crashes in America involve mobile phones or texting, equating to approximately 1.2 million accidents a year. Jonathan added: ‘These are moments of distraction caused by mobile phones which have resulted in terrible accidents, and most drivers can relate to how easy it is to be distracted by their phone – even when hands free.

‘However, as realisation of the safety issues grows, and companies fear being sued for their drivers’ actions, it may not be long before a far greater number of UK organisations put blanket bans in place.’