Mobile Phones While Driving
The penalty for using a hand-held phone whilst driving will increase on 27th February 2007
Mobile phones have many benefits. They provide security and can be a great help in an emergency. But tests have shown a driver cannot help being distracted by a mobile phone call or text message. If you are distracted, you will not register hazards or react quickly. A conversation on a hands-free phone is no less distracting than using a hand-held one.
1) What is the law about mobile phones while driving?
It is illegal to drive a vehicle or ride a motorbike and use a hand held mobile phone or similar device. It is also illegal to supervise a learner and use a hand-held phone. Hands-free mobile phones are also a distraction and you risk prosecution for not having proper control of a vehicle if the police see you driving poorly while using one.
A hand held device is something that “is or must be held at some point during the course of making or receiving a call or performing any other interactive communication function. A device “similar” to a mobile phone includes a device that can be used for sending or receiving spoken or written messages, sending or receiving still or moving images or providing Internet access.
If you accept a roadside fixed penalty notice, you will receive 3 points on your licence and a fine of £60. If a case goes to court, in addition to points, you could face discretionary disqualification on top a maximum fine of £1,000 (or £2,500 in the case of drivers of buses/coaches and goods vehicles).
2) What’s wrong with using a mobile phone while driving?
It is dangerous because a telephone conversation (or texting) distracts from the mental concentration needed to drive safely. You put yourself and other road users in danger. Research has shown that driver’s reaction times are up to 50% slower that normal when driving and using a mobile phone. It also shows that your reaction times are 30% worse than when driving under the influence of alcohol. Other research suggests that if you are using a mobile phone while driving you are four times more likely to have a crash.
3) Is a driver allowed to use any other equipment like a hands-free mobile phone?
Why don’t you just make it illegal to use all mobiles when driving? The use of a hands-free phone or other equipment is not specifically prohibited because it is difficult for police to see it in use. But if you drive poorly because you are distracted by a phone conversation for example, then the police can prosecute for failing to have proper control of the vehicle. The same penalty applies as for hand-held phones – 3 points and a £60 fine.
If there is an incident or a crash, the use of any phone could be justification for the charges of careless or dangerous driving. The penalties on conviction for such offences include heavy fines, endorsement, disqualification and, in serious cases, imprisonment. Courts are taking a serious view in such cases.
4) How can a police officer prove that I was on my hands free/mobile?
If you drive badly and a police officer suspects you have been using your phone he can stop you and seek a reason for the poor driving. If it goes to court, your phone records can be checked to determine whether you were using your phone.
5) When is a driver allowed to use a hand-held phone?
There is an exception for calls to 999 or 112 in a genuine emergency where it would be unsafe or impractical to stop.
Using 2-way radio equipment when driving is not a specific offence. Remember that a conversation could still distract from the concentration needed to drive safely. If you do not have proper control, then the police can still take action.
6) What if a mobile phone in my car rings?
What if I phone someone who is driving? Let it ring and return the call when you are able to park in a safe place. It would be better to switch to voicemail before starting.
If you phone someone who is driving, say you will phone later and hang up.
7) What counts as driving?
Driving is using a motor vehicle on public roads and can include when a vehicle is stopped at traffic lights or during a traffic hold-up. Therefore you should not use that time to make or receive a call. Park safely and then use the phone (but not on the motorway hard shoulder).
8) Must I switch off any phone in my car?
No. Passengers may want to use a phone. If you are driving on your own, we advise that if you do not switch your phone off, you should switch it to voicemail, message service or call diversion and ring back when you are safely parked.
9) What about employers?
The requirement for an employer to assess risks applies to employees driving at-work. Employers therefore need to consider the risks associated with using a phone while driving. They should not ask their staff to make or receive calls while driving. Employers could be liable to prosecution if they require or allow employees to use a mobile phone while driving for work. Remember that all phones affect concentration. Using one could put employees driving at-work, and others, at risk.
10) What about cyclists?
It is not a specific offence to cycle and use a mobile phone but cyclists could be prosecuted by the police for careless or dangerous cycling. Cyclists need to concentrate like all other road users. They should not do anything that would affect their concentration and put themselves and other road users in danger.
Switch off before you drive off, or switch to voicemail. Drivers should take frequent breaks from driving – use these to make calls or respond to voicemail messages.
THINK! Switch off before you drive off.
Based on Crown copyright