Tough new legislation on mobile phone use in cars is set to be introduced in spring
Holding a phone while driving for “interactive communication”, namely to make calls or write and send text messages has been an endorsable offence (one which carries penalty points) since 2006.
Recommendations issued by the Department of Transport, expected to be implemented by next spring, will tighten the law further to include drivers who hold a phone to browse the internet, follow maps on sat nav, take photos or videos, or scroll through a music playlist. Hands-free will remain permitted as long as the driver doesn’t pick up the phone, but the police will still be able to stop a motorist if they believe he/she is distracted. Some groups are calling for a total ban on hands-free, although the government has said there are no plans to introduce this.
The penalty for breaking the law on mobile phone use is currently a Fixed Penalty Notice of £200 and six penalty points on your licence – halfway to a ban. In some cases, the courts can also fine drivers up to £1,000 and HGV and bus drivers £2,500.
A new driver (a full licence-holder for less than two years) caught using a hand-held device behind the wheel will automatically have their licence revoked if they receive 6 or more points on their licence.
A driver is only able to hold and use a phone when the car is safely parked – this does not count when static in traffic or queuing at lights – or when making emergency calls on 999 or 112 if it is unsafe to stop.
According to a report by RAC, over a third of under 25s check texts, email or social media whilst behind the wheel, in spite of the obvious risks of doing so and the increase in penalty from 3 to 6 points which was introduced in 2017.
Mobile phones continue to be one of the most significant factors in the cause of serious accidents – last year their use contributed to 29 deaths and 118 serious injuries on our roads
Nearly a quarter of all drivers still drive at the same time as making calls using a handheld device, according to RAC’s 2019 motoring report. This is even higher amongst younger drivers up to the age of 24, where 51 % admitted to doing so occasionally.
Official government advice is to have the phone tucked away in the glove compartment whilst driving, but according to the report only 15 % are following this. The most common place for it is in a bag or pocket (used by 45% of motorists to store their phones), a quarter leave the device on the seat next to them or console. A similar number of people admit to leaving their phones switched on with sound on rather than using safe mode or putting them on silent.
For more information or advice on the current or forthcoming legislation on mobile phone usage in a vehicle, contact the experts at Kenway Miller Solicitors on 0161