The last week has seen a number of articles in the press about the use of mobile phones while driving.
Last week BBC News UK relayed the findings of a Department for Transport survey which found that people who use their mobile phones illegally while driving are more likely to be sending texts or using social media than making a phone call. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-31634425
BBC News Gloucestershire recently reported comments made by Ms Davenport, Chief Constable for the locality, “My view is that if someone is caught twice using a mobile phone within a period of time we should be considering things like disqualifications for short periods of time”. Ms Davenport was concerned about the “significant risk” posed by people using mobile phones at the wheel, and echoes growing concern about drivers that are ignorant of mobile phone laws. However, she believes the issue will be ignored pre-election as a political hot potato. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-gloucestershire-31682145
On 7 July 2014 BBC News UK reported the findings of a survey for motoring group the RAC, wherein it was found that “A fifth of motorists do not know it is illegal to check social media websites on a phone whilst driving…”.
So what is the law?
It is illegal to ride a motorcycle or drive using hand-held phones or similar device which performs an interactive communication function by transmitting and receiving data. The rules may also apply if you are stopped at traffic lights or queuing in traffic. It is also illegal to use a hand-held phone or similar device when supervising a learner driver or rider.
You can get an automatic fixed penalty notice if you’re caught using a hand-held phone while driving or riding. You will get 3 penalty points on your licence and a fine of £100. Alternatively, your case could go to Court, where you would receive 3 penalty points as a starting point, but you could be disqualified from driving or riding and receive a maximum fine of £1,000. Drivers of buses or goods vehicles could get a maximum fine of £2,500, aside from any endorsement on their driving record. If you are a New Driver your licence may be revoked should you receive 6 or more penalty points within 2 years of passing your test. Anyone receiving 12 or more points within three years will be disqualified for at least 6 months as a totter, unless you can successfully argue Exceptional Hardship.
If you’re the driver, you can only use your phone in a vehicle if you:
- need to call 999 or 112 in an emergency and it’s unsafe or impractical to stop
- are safely parked
You can use hands-free phones, sat navs and 2-way radios when you’re driving or riding. But if the police think you’re distracted and not in control of your vehicle you could still get stopped and prosecuted for Driving Without Due Care or even Dangerous driving.
In a nutshell – whilst we commonly use a vehicle to be mobile, we should not commonly use a mobile (or similar) when driving. Using FaceTime and Facebook are out. You may not receive and send text messages, and faxing is a no-no. There are different permeations as to what constitutes “Using”, “Driving”, “Permitting” and “Supervising”. Furthermore, we have successfully defended clients where the use of the phone falls outside of the spirit of the legislation. In any case where you are prosecuted for using a mobile phone you should call our specialist team of Road Traffic Lawyers in order to ascertain whether you have a defence available to you, and the possible ramifications should you accept that Conditional Offer of Fixed Penalty, or plead guilty at Court.