There have been a number of important changes to road traffic law recently, together with the introduction of new motoring offences. Whilst some of these have been reported widely, drivers and employers are often still unaware of the full implications.
Drug-driving laws are in full force
The new offence of ‘drug driving’ establishes blood level limits for 17 substances, including both illegal drugs, as well as some prescription medicines. A zero-tolerance stance is taken and if you are over the limit, it is not a defence to prove that your driving was not impaired. The limits for illegal drugs are extremely low.
Police officers can test for cannabis or cocaine at the roadside, and screen for other drugs, including heroin and ecstasy, at the police station.
Health and safety law requires employers to assess workplace risks and ensure drivers are competent and safe. Remember that a vehicle, even if it is owned by an employee, is deemed to be ‘the workplace’ if it is being driven for work purposes.
Businesses should have in place clear drug-driving policies, and systems for drivers to report when a specified drug is prescribed to them.
Tougher penalties for using a mobile phone whilst driving
It is illegal to use a hand-held mobile phone while driving. It is also an offence to “cause or permit” a driver to use one while driving.
Therefore, employers can be liable as well as the individual driver if they require employees to use a hand-held phone while driving. It can also be illegal to use a hands-free phone. Depending upon the individual circumstances, drivers could be charged with ‘failing to have proper control of their vehicle’. In more serious cases, it could result in prosecution for careless or dangerous driving.
The police may check phone records when investigating fatal and serious crashes to determine if use of the phone contributed to the crash.
Employers who require staff to use a mobile phone while driving could be prosecuted if an investigation determined that such use contributed to a crash. Expensive claims in the civil courts could also result.
Fixed penalties for mobile phone offences have increased to six penalty points and a £200 fine. You can also be taken to court where you could be disqualified from driving and receive a maximum fine of £1,000 (£2,500 if you are a lorry or bus driver).