What exactly are the new laws on using mobiles whilst driving?
The new rules on mobile phone use in while driving came into effect in March this year, yet far too many drivers are still unaware of what they are and aren’t permitted to do whilst behind the wheel. Thousands of drivers are caught using their mobiles illegally whilst driving their vehicles each year, and the distractions caused by mobile phone use have caused scores of fatal accidents, despite the vast sums of money that have been used to fund expensive marketing campaigns on the issue. Even the risk of being fined and banned from driving hasn’t stopped some drivers from texting and making phone calls whilst in charge of their vehicles.
It has actually been illegal to touch a mobile phone, even when using a hands-free set, since 2003. This means you cannot even touch your device whilst you are stopped in traffic or at traffic when your engine is running. The only time you can use your phone when driving is when you are parked safely or need to call the emergency services and stopping is unsafe or impractical. You can only use hands-free sets if you don’t press any buttons, though you may still be stopped if a police officer thinks you don’t have full control of your vehicle or are distracted. You could even face a penalty when using your device at a drive-thru restaurant.
The penalty for using your phone behind the wheel has now been doubled to £200, though you could even go to court, lose your licence or face a much bigger fine of £1,000 in certain circumstances. Those caught whilst driving a bus or goods vehicle could be fined up to £2,500. You also now face six points being added to your licence if you are caught using your phone rather than the previous three. This means new drivers could lose their licence and be forced to retake their practical and theory tests after just one offence. You will no longer be able to avoid points by going on a remedial driving course after ministers decided this was not a sufficient deterrent.
Figures from the Department of Transport showed that 492 factors were caused or partially caused by drivers using mobile phones. Over 200 people have lost their lives because of drivers using their phones in the last decade, with phone use contributing to more than 40 fatal accidents since 2014. The number of people being caught using their phones whilst driving has fallen substantially over the years. 16,900 received fixed penalty notices in 2015, down from 123,100 in 2011. Those wishing to avoid losing their licences and being met with sizeable fines are advised to use their systems to get around and refrain from checking texts, social media feeds and returning calls until they have safely parked their vehicles.