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A guide to using your mobile whilst driving

Mobile phone use is a growing problem of driver distraction. According to the RAC’s Report on Motoring 2016, the number of drivers in the UK who own up to using a handheld mobile phone increased from 8% in 2014 to 31% in 2016. There are plenty of research studies demonstrating use of a mobile phone whilst driving is dangerous and pervasive, hence why it’s illegal in the UK and has been for some time.

Distracted driving accounts for approximately 25% of all motor vehicle crash fatalities, but this figure is unlikely to surprise many. Most people can acknowledge that glancing down at a phone for just a split second can potentially lead to a crash, causing severe injuries and thousands in damages. So what are the current consequences and why is it still such a major problem?

Doubling the previous penalty

Mobile phones have become an indispensable part of our daily lives. What was once a device solely used to make calls is now a personal computer, camera, video recorder, music player, radio and entertainment system. Mobile phone driving laws were first enacted in December 2003, and since 2007 the penalty was three points on your licence and a fine (£60 at first, but £100 from 2013). That was the situation up until March 2017, when the penalties were doubled. Today anyone caught using a hand-held mobile phone whilst driving is fined £200 and given six penalty points, which will remain there for 4 years. The case could also go to court and you could be disqualified from driving or riding and get a maximum fine of £1000. Drivers of buses or goods vehicles could get a maximum fine of £2500. New drivers (those within two years of passing their test) may have their licence revoked the very first time they are caught.

Is hands-free usage permitted?

You can only use a hand-held mobile phone when you have pulled over and are safely parked, or you genuinely need to call 999 or 112 in an emergency (whereby it’s unsafe or impractical to stop). Hands-free mobile phone use is permitted, however, the police can still stop drivers if they’re talking on the phone and appearing to drive without due care and attention. Using hands-free is still very much a grey area, but there is evidence to suggest using a hands-free phone slows reaction times behind the wheel. You can, therefore, be prosecuted in the case of an accident, if you were deemed to not exercise proper control of your vehicle due to phone distraction. Using hands-free can then have a major impact on whether or not you're found guilty of careless or dangerous driving.

Top tips for using your phone safely:

  • Keep your phone on voicemail when driving or have your phone set to ‘do not disturb mode’.
  • If you do need to make a call or read a message, always pull over and park in a safe place and then switch off your engine. It’s important to remember that when the engine is running and you are in control of the car, it is illegal to use your hand-held phone.
  • If you feel you feel it’s imperative to make or receive a phone call, ensure your phone is paired with your car’s Bluetooth system or use a hands-free kit. You should always keep the conversation concise and be sure to tell the person calling you that you’re driving so they understand your need to concentrate.
  • Do not pull over on the hard shoulder of the motorway to use a mobile phone, unless it is an emergency. This is by no means a safe place to stop for a phone call.
  • You should also resist contacting an individual’s mobile if you know they are driving or riding.

A phone is one of many potential in-vehicle distractions

As we’ve touched on, phones can play an important role in today’s busy world, but when driving, it’s up to the driver to minimise distractions. If you regularly find yourself driving whilst playing music loud, drinking coffee, smoking, applying makeup, eating or updating social media, you are putting yourself and others at risk, driving without due care and attention, which could result in disqualification along with a maximum fine of £1,000. It’s also important to know that a device must not block your view of the road and the traffic ahead as The Highway Code states “windscreens and windows must be kept clean and free from obstructions to vision”.

What about wearable technology?

It is not yet clear whether using a smart watch wrapped around your wrist would constitute a hand-held device, however, you can still commit offences such as not being in proper control of your vehicle, careless driving or even dangerous driving, so it’s best to ensure wearable technology is put away, switched off or set to ‘do not disturb’.

A defensive driving mindset

If you touch a hand-held mobile whilst your engine is on, you are breaking the law. The National Police Chiefs’ Council Lead for Roads Policing has said: “People have to think about the consequences of their actions – a moment’s distraction can change innocent lives. It is never a risk worth taking.” The more defensive your driving mindset is, the safer you’re likely to be. By making smart decisions such as leaving in good time, sharing the road, avoiding complacency and keeping your hands off distracting devices, you can play a pivotal role in making the roads safer.

Noble Solicitors regularly attend the Magistrate's Court to represent clients' who may have come across motoring offences, traffic offences, driving convictions and bans. So if you have been accused of driving whilst using a mobile phone, please call our Motoring Solicitors team today on 07000 81 82 83.

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