Mobile phones have become an essential part of our working lives since their mammoth take up throughout the nineties. A sales man who forgets his phone often feels like he has lost his right arm!

However new legislation came into force on December 1 banning the use of mobile phones whilst driving which will affect both employees and employers alike.

A handheld device is any electronic device used for accessing oral, text or pictorial communications including the internet and text messages. However the definition does not include pushing buttons on a phone which is mounted in the car, in a cradle, or operating the phone through a multi-function steering wheel thus allowing proper fitted hands free telephony kits.

The new legislation also excludes 2-way press and talk radios used by the emergency services and taxi drivers and using a handheld device for genuine emergencies where it would not be practicable to stop the vehicle.

Driving is defined as being in the car with the engine running regardless of if the car is stationary or not. The law applies to all motor powered vehicles. Therefore calls can not be made on hand held devices while being stuck in a traffic jam or other such occurrences. For drivers who contravene the law the punishment will be a fixed penalty of £30 or a fine of up to £1,000 if the matter goes to court. This fine is increased to £2,500 for drivers of goods vehicles or passenger vehicles with nine or more seats. There are plans to make it an endorsable offence, resulting in three penalty points on the drivers licence. Current laws already stipulate drivers are required to be in proper control of their vehicle and therefore the use of a hand free device that requires a lot of manual dialling etc could result in prosecution for a careless / dangerous driving offence. Effect on Employers This new law will make permitting a driver to use a hand held phone while driving an offence so this will therefore apply to employers who require or permit their staff to use a handheld mobile phone whilst driving. Any employer allowing this to happen will be committing an offence. In addition, health and safety legislation requires employers to manage their employees risks which are faced at work. Therefore employers should have a clear policy on the use of mobile phones in vehicles. For many companies who have a mobile sales force, the new legislation will have a direct impact on the day to day business processes. Many calls are taken and made in the car to make sure that any travelling time is spent efficiently in order to drive the business forward. One solution is using voice recognition technology such as the Telephonetics Contact Portal® which enables drivers to simply say the name of the contact they wish to call – whether that is a person or an organisation  By accessing a centralised directory using speech, there is no need to remember numbers or even to look any up, which would also provide distraction from driving. All numbers are held securely and are instantly updated of any changes so the directory is never out of date. Incidentally this also means that any lost mobiles do not pose a problem as no numbers are lost on the phone – all are safely kept within the organisation.

Drivers have a speed dial number programmed on the mobile to call the centralised directory and call routing functionality of the ContactPortal® so that to call any required contact all they have to do is push one button on the phone and say their name.

Paul Welham, is Director of Sales and Marketing at Telephonetics  01442 242 242