Industry has called for a mass ‘culture change’ within the agriculture community to deter the illegal use of mobile phones while driving.
With the summer season underway and numerous tractors on roads across the UK, NFU deputy present Stuart Robert has urged farmers to ‘call out anyone using a mobile phone while operating machinery’, after witnessing more than six tractor drivers commit offences in the last fortnight.
Reminding farmers they are not above the law, Mr Roberts said: “Mobile phones are a proven distraction and do cause accidents.
"Their use is down to a culture of not thinking things through, of thinking accidents will not happen to them and thinking the law does not apply to tractor drivers."
Mr Roberts added it is also the culture of ’everyone else accepting poor behaviour’ and ’not calling it out’.
He said: "Using mobiles while driving is illegal and highly dangerous to yourself, other road users and pedestrians.
"As an industry, we must all be braver and call this behaviour out rather than continue to turn a blind eye and avoid that difficult and possibly embarrassing discussion.”
It came as a young farmer was slapped with a £200 fine and six penalty points after Cumbria police caught him talking on his mobile phone while driving a tractor and rake.
National Association of Agricultural Contractors (NAAC) chief executive Jill Hewitt said: “No employer should be allowing or condoning the use of mobile phones while driving.”
NAAC transport adviser, Mike Sumner, also warned that ‘a person using their phone would be liable for manslaughter and prosecution if they were involved in a fatal incident caused by their dangerous driving or driving without due care and attention’.
HGV drivers found using their mobiles while driving face a two week ban and any new road drivers caught using their phone within their first two years will have their licences revoked.
Mr Sumner added it was the employers’ responsibility to ensure employees abide by the law.
He said: “It is the employers’ job to discourage and deter this illegal behaviour and they must take action towards repeat offenders, through verbal and written warnings and, in some cases, dismissals.
“Incidents can impact their insurance, which will have knock on effects for their business.
"It is therefore important employers’ have written evidence documenting their steps taken in addressing employees’ behaviour.”
The NAAC has recommended employers carry out random spot checks as well as adopt specific signed policies within their businesses to restrict employees use of mobile phones and social media.