Dangerous talk for business drivers

Business worries could be leading drivers to using their phones in the car even though they know it puts them at higher risk of an accident, according to a new survey.

Some 62% of motorists who took part in a national survey carried out by the technology company 3M realise that talking on a hands-free phone makes a crash more likely. More than a quarter of the drivers said they knew of somebody who had had an accident or a near miss while using a hands-free in the car.

Yet six out of ten fear drivers surveyed said that fear that if they stopped talking on the move, it could have a negative effect on their business. Around 21% believe they have to be contactable at all times.

3M undertook the survey after banning its own 4,000 UK and Ireland employees from using hands-free mobiles while driving. The company, whose products range from Post-it Notes to traffic safety systems, took the step following studies highlighting the dangers that the distraction can cause.

John Klee of 3M said: “When we carried out a survey of our employees, almost three quarters said their customers had either welcomed the ban or were neutral about its introduction.”

Research undertaken by TRL, a UK transport research laboratory, showed that using a hands-free mobile phone while driving is more likely to lengthen reaction times than having 80mg of alcohol in the bloodstream, which is the current UK legal limit. Twenty three other EU countries have a limit of 50mg or lower.

Professor Andrew Parkes, chief scientist at TRL, is concerned that employees may be feeling pressurised by their companies into making and receiving calls while they drive. He said: “As this has been shown to increase the chances of an accident by four times, it is a risk that employers need to acknowledge and manage.

“At some stage, I fully expect to see an employer sued by an employee involved in an accident due to being distracted by a business call while driving.”

The 3M driver distraction survey was carried out online during November and December 2008 and received 1,638 responses from drivers up and down the UK, 1048 of whom who use their cars on business.

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