Mobile phone use
Driving with a mobile phone in your hand seriously affects your ability to control the vehicle, especially if you need to take action quickly to avoid a crash. For example, if a child suddenly runs out onto the road.
Do you want to incur a heavy fine and earn demerit points on your licence? Driving with a hand held mobile phone is illegal in NSW, even if you have stopped at traffic lights. Even with a hands-free kit the conversation can still distract your concentration.
A recent study by the UK based Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents found that:
- Over three quarters of company car drivers used a mobile phone while driving. Most drivers who used a mobile phone used a hand-held phone.
- Manually dialling or text messaging caused more problems than adjusting a car radio.
- Talking is excessively distractive.
- If your phone rings, allow it to go through to voicemail.
- Avoid all phone conversations in your vehicle.
- Stop in a safe place if you need to make a call or retrieve a message.
- NEVER take notes while driving, or send an SMS. This is most dangerous as your eyes are not focussed on the road.
If using a hands-free kit answer the call, and say you will call back in a few minutes. Stop in a safe area and then call the person back.
As employers you need to be aware of the role you play in the link between fatigue and road accidents. Duty of care responsibility extends to this area too. It is necessary to think of not only shift workers, but also those who work extended hours or outside traditional hours when scheduling meetings and conferences that require long distance driving.
Guidelines to follow include:
- Schedule conferences at the start of the day and if people are travelling from a long distance, provide overnight accommodation.
- If possible ensure two people travel in the one car to keep the driver occupied.
- Do not drive at times you would normally be asleep or the ‘afternoon lull’ (between 1pm-5pm).
- Do not start a trip after a long day’s work.
Plan your trip, take regular breaks and utilise the available rest areas.
Roads and Maritime Services (replacing Roads and Traffic Authority) has developed a driver fatigue kit designed to allow delivery of driver fatigue information to employees who use a company vehicle as part of their job, but not as the core activity of the job. It contains:
- A workbook.
- A presentation on overhead transparencies.
- Speaker’s notes.
- Each of the above on CD-ROM. Note that the CD version of the presentation includes the software required to run it.
For a free Fatigue Kit developed by Roads and Maritime Services (replacing Roads and Traffic Authority), please contact Road Safety on 02 9218 6896 or email Safer_Work_Driving
Alcohol at a function organised by employer
For many employees office parties are a feature of the working environment. As employers the ‘duty of care’ responsibility extends to this area. Ensuring employee safety in the workplace includes work-related functions – even those organised by the social club.
If an employee is intoxicated and decides to drive home from an office party, you as an employer could be liable.
Methods to reduce this risk include:
- Providing measured alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks.
- Providing lots of food.
- Encouraging the use of public transport or identify a designated driver before the party.
- Providing accommodation, a taxi home or a lift with someone who is sober if a person appears intoxicated.
Further steps include:
- Installing a public breath tester.
- Avoiding alcoholic beverages as prizes.
- Providing taxi vouchers.
- Ensuring responsible servings of alcohol for social and informal events.
As employers you have a legal ‘duty of care’ to ensure your employees’ safety in the workplace. Many organisations encourage employees to help improve the safety of their driving both on the job and out of hours.
- Providing information and education on speeding.
- Fitting over-speed warning devices.
- Scheduling to allow enough time for vehicles to reach their destinations without speeding (including allowing time for rest breaks)
- If the weather is poor or the traffic conditions are difficult, it is best to slow down and stay under the posted speed limit. Speed advisory signs show only the recommended maximum speed it is safe to travel in good weather and traffic conditions.
- Have your cars fitted with an over-speed warning device. An over-speed warning device is useful in urban and rural areas.
- When you are travelling at higher speeds, increase the distance between your car and the vehicle ahead. If the vehicle ahead suddenly has to slow down or stop, you will then have enough distance to slow down or stop, avioding a rear-end crash.
- Don’t cut in front of trucks that need longer stopping distances.
Daytime running lights
By simply using daytime running lights (DRL's), the visibility of your car is increased substantially to both pedestrians and other drivers.
It is necessary however that the correct lights be used. Fog lights and high beam are inappropriate and parking lights ineffective whilst driving. Until specially designed DRLs are installed, low beam headlights are the most effective way to make your vehicle more visible.
A recent NRMA report has found that DRLs could prevent a quarter of all fatal daylight collisions and more than a quarter of fatal daytime pedestrian accidents.
A combination of a light coloured vehicle and turning your low beam headlights on during the day will make it easier for other road users to not only see you but also to better judge the distance between themselves and your vehicle. This equates to less risky manoeuvres being undertaken.
What to do after an accident
- Stop immediately.
- Use headlights, indicator lights or hazard lights to warn other drivers, and to light up the scene if it is dark.
- If possible send someone to warn oncoming drivers.
- Help the injured.
- Dial 000 (some mobiles may require dialling 112 instead) to make contact with Police (and/or Ambulance) if anyone is killed or injured or if property damage of more than $500 has occurred.
- Exchange drivers' names, addresses, registration numbers and names of vehicle owners with others involved in the crash.
- Clear the road of broken glass and debris if safe to do so.
After an accident has occurred always be mindful of your own safety, as well as that of others. Whatever you do, always be on the alert for the dangers posed by vehicles still using the road.