The dangers of using mobile phones whilst driving were highlighted once more in the media this week as Susan Noble, a 29 year-old woman from Armthorpe, Doncaster, was sentenced at Teesside Crown Court for causing the death by dangerous driving of Alexandru Braninski in December 2011. The victim, a 25-year-old Romanian male, suffered traumatic injuries and was pronounced dead at the scene on the northbound carriageway of the A19 near Northallerton. The car in which he had been travelling was stationary because of a puncture at the time of the crash and Mr Braninski was standing behind it while the wheel was being changed. Ms Noble’s car crashed into him, pushing the stationary car into a field at the side of the road. Ms Noble had been texting a friend at the time.
As well as receiving three years’ imprisonment, Ms Noble was also disqualified from driving for six years and will have to take an extended driving test.
And yet, a recent survey by road charity Brake has revealed that Ms Noble is by no means alone in having continued to use her mobile phone whilst driving despite the ban imposed in the United Kingdom on 1 December 2003. The survey found that more than a quarter of drivers text while at the wheel, with those using cars for work the most likely to offend. More than one in seven of those involved in the poll said that they apply make-up or shave while in the driving seat.
Regardless of whether or not an accident occurs, motorists who are caught using a hand-held mobile phone while driving will have three penalty points added to their licence in addition to the fine of £60, which can lead to a driving ban for those with points already on their licence for offences such as speeding. Less serious accidents involving a driver being distracted whilst driving by texting or talking on a mobile phone, for instance, may be prosecuted as either careless driving (with a fine as the maximum sentence) or dangerous driving, which has a maximum penalty of 2 years’ imprisonment. The preferred charge will depend on the nature of the driving, not the consequences.
The offence of causing death by dangerous driving can be heard only in the Crown Court and is punishable by a maximum sentence of 14 years and a minimum disqualification of 2 years with a compulsory extended re-test. And a new offence of causing death by careless driving came into force in August 2008 with a maximum sentence of 5 years’ imprisonment. The consequence of this for the public is that the burden on the prosecution to prove that the standard of driving is “careless” as opposed to “dangerous” is much lower, but may still result in a lengthy sentence of imprisonment.
As Road Traffic Law experts, Hine Solicitors have an exceptional record of successfully contesting motoring prosecutions and where there are mitigating factors, obtaining excellent results for defendants. If you are facing prosecution for a driving offence it is important that you obtain expert representation at the earliest stage in the proceedings.
Article written by Ruth Draisey