Real Life Road Safety: An Office on Wheels

Posted on January 13th, 2012 by James Luckhurst

Real Life Road Safety: An Office on WheelsNo matter how good a driver you believe yourself to be, road safety should be observed by all. In this series of articles, motoring journalist James Luckhurst, will be looking at real life cases of drivers who are inadvertently putting themselves and others in danger on our busy motorways.

MARTIN WILCOX, 34, was stopped by police on a British motorway when he veered suddenly from the third to the fourth lane, in front of the unmarked police car, causing the police driver to brake heavily to avoid a collision. Martin pulled back into the third lane and, as the officer drove past, he saw him holding a styrofoam cup of coffee in his left hand. He was driving a two-year-old, 2.5-litre company car.

Martin told the officer he was driving from Twickenham in south-west London, with a colleague, to a client meeting in Liverpool. He drives about 500 miles per week, some of this as part of his work. He has nine points on his licence, all from camera-recorded speeding offences. He has also collected two parking tickets in the past three years. He occasionally makes and receives calls from a hands-free mobile phone when driving. He admits to having once fallen asleep at the wheel, though it was a momentary lapse with no catastrophic consequences. His employer imposes no limits as to the hours or mileage he drives, and does not operate a road safety policy. Martin has never been offered a driver training course and there are no company guidelines on mobile phone use while driving.

Driver training expert Graham Griffiths pointed to a lack of perception by Martin that his actions were unsafe. “Martin is not your typical high-mileage businessman, but when he is on the road he treats his car as a mobile office, restaurant – or padded cell,” he said. “The real problem is that driving is just the nuisance factor that goes with his need to do his job. Quite possibly this view is confirmed by his employer, and exacerbated by the trials of actually getting from A to B. He is unlikely to recognise his behaviour as unsafe.

“A coffee cup in one hand limits Martin’s ability to take any avoiding action if someone messes up. On this occasion, he was lucky that the avoiding action was taken by the policeman. It’s no surprise that getting on for two-thirds of all company-owned vehicles are involved in an accident – and insurance claim – each year. Here, neither the individual nor the company appreciates the risk to which they expose themselves. His car is either his desk on wheels, or his restaurant.”