Business drivers ‘should get harsher punishment’ for mobile phone offences: Suzette Davenport

12.00 | 1 February 2016 | | 8 comments

A leading police officer has suggested that those who drive as part of their job ‘should get harsher punishment’ for using a mobile phone at the wheel (Daily Mail).

Chief constable Suzette Davenport, the National Police Chiefs’ Council’s (NPCC) lead on roads policing, told the Daily Mail that tougher penalties for business drivers would ‘act as a deterrent’.

Chief constable Davenport says that the current Government consultation on mobile phone penalties doesn’t go far enough.

The consultation, launched on 26 January, seeks feedback on proposals to increase the number of penalty points for drivers caught using a mobile phone and raise the fixed penalty notice level from £100 to £150 for all drivers.

Miss Davenport suggests that professional drivers pose a disproportionate risk to others as they travel up and down the nation’s motorways and A-roads.

Under her plans, delivery drivers and other business drivers would face a ban if caught twice while others would be punished less harshly.

She told the Daily Mail: “If you get caught twice on a mobile phone during a set period of time you should receive a short-term ban.

“If you cannot conduct your professional life or business, that is really going to impact on people and I hope it would be a deterrent.”

However, the RAC has cautioned against a ‘two-tier system’, suggesting that all road users should face the same penalties.

Simon Peevers, RAC Business spokesperson, said: “The fact is there are too many motorists in general that still use hand held mobile phones while driving and there is a real need to change that behaviour. Whether people are driving for business, going to the shops or doing the school run, the distraction caused by hand-held phone use can lead to disastrous consequences.

“It may be that the threat of a driving ban is a better deterrent than points and a fine, and worthy of consideration; but rather than set a higher level of punishment for certain drivers the law should be equal and clear for all drivers and crucially, more effectively enforced.

Road Safety GB has expressed a need for both education and enforcement.

Will Murray, director of Interactive Driving Systems and Road Safety GB specialist with regard to driving for work, said: “As with all things road safety, it’s about a combination of education, enforcement, engineering, evaluation and enablement.

“At the organisational level policy is important – organisations should be encouraged to have robust mobile phone policies. Without such a policy, drivers are not being engaged nor enabled to do the right thing

“As an example, one organisation we work with used DVLA data to inform policy decisions. It identified a large number (more than 70 in three years) of CU80 mobile phone related endorsements among its drivers and took the decision to implement a total ban on mobile phone use on work journeys, or in work vehicles driven for personal use. 

“Over the following two-year period, only three CU80s were recorded – representing a significant reduction in risks and costs to the organisation, and its people."



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    I certainly respect the right of Ms Davenport to comment on sentencing for motoring offences. However, we have a long established policy in this country of elected representatives setting laws, a professional police force enforcing those laws and an independent judiciary deciding sentences.

    On almost any street you can observe people who believe that the risk of getting caught whilst using a mobile phone is minimal. Yet catching these people by a policeman with a long lens camera must be only marginally more difficult than “shooting fish in barrel”.
    If the police were more pro-active in detecting and enforcing the laws which our elected representatives set then the “fear of getting caught” would be sufficient to deter transgressors. Detection of many traffic offences can be fully automated, such as speed cameras, or partially automated through technology. Maybe the police should get smarter about how it enforces and earn some “respect” for protecting the vulnerable on our streets rather than seeming so overly concerned about its “popularity” with transgressors.

    Rod King, 20’s Plenty for Us
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    I disagree with a two tier system for business car drivers. I can see a benefit for truck & bus drivers which can be dealt with as new legislation suggests by the area traffic commissioner. Emergency service drivers do need to use radios in the course of their job, otherwise it would be akin to going to a police box to take a call when necessary. Police drivers are trained to a higher standard and can take in much more information when driving with the distraction of a radio call or even wondering what they are going to be involved in when they get there! Their training is in such circumstances when pressure is applied, equally when tested or their driving reviewed at intervals. These journeys represent such a tiny mileage in comparison and we should avoid being side tracked. There are many distractions in a car and things are only going to get worse with 4G equipped cars with internet connections as a further distraction. Some drivers even over ride in car TVs to work when in motion. No doubt some of these arguments even happened when car radios were suggested. The answer is manufacturers to be brought in line with in car applications, and more officers, with the specialised knowledge and training to educate and enforce.

    Olly Lancs
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    Firstly Miss Davenport says “If you get caught..” As the lead officer on roads policing is this an admission that the likelihood of catching someone is low due to the decrease in dedicated roads policing officers? (Had to get that one in). Secondly she would need to clearly define other business drivers. If someone is driving from one office to another for a meeting this should be considered an at work function. Therefore they would be a business driver? Thirdly The RAC response is correct.

    Peter City of Westminster
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    Hugh does raise an interesting point about emergency service drivers and the distraction from communicating on their radios.

    I would suggest we would be expected to see this in the same way as their going through lights on red or breaking the speed limit – something that is recognised as being higher risk but sometimes necessary to the performance of their duties and therefore undertaken following specific training.

    Performance of simultaneous tasks does improve with practice/training (I recognise that statement potentially opens a can of worms).

    Would be interested to hear from Police Officers what their thoughts are though?

    Matt Staton, Cambridgeshire
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    I’ve no doubt that using a ‘phone whilst driving – whether hands free or not – is distracting and does raise the accident risk; that being the case, is it the same for making and receiving two-way radio transmissions, such as those fequently made by er… the police? I wonder if there have been many collisions caused by police drivers whilst on their ‘phone or radio. I’ve seen them driving manual cars, steering with one hand whist operating their lapel radio with the other and wonder if they are in full control, especially at speed. I appreciate it is necessary and the risks may be over-ridden by operational needs etc., but I just wondered if their own driving may be compromised in doing so and what the rest of the motoring public are supposed to conclude when they see this.

    Hugh Jones, Cheshire
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    Would Ms Davenport by extension say that all off-duty Police Officers, herself included, should face harsher penalties for their transgressions?

    David, Suffolk
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    I think the RAC are correct – there shouldn’t be s two tier system. Early last year Suzette Davenport suggested mobile phones should be confiscated after an accident, but ended up backtracking on that suggestion.

    Paul Biggs, Staffordshire
    Agree (0) | Disagree (0)

    I have to say I agree with the RAC, all road users should face the same penalties. I think the more important question that should be addressed is whether it is the current penalties or the current enforcement levels that are the issue in terms of deterring mobile phone use while driving?

    Matt Staton, Cambridgeshire
    Agree (0) | Disagree (0)

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