The Government introduced increased penalties for the use of mobile phones behind the wheel in March 2017. Do you know what the law actually says, what you are allowed to do and what is an offence?
Increased penalties introduced in March 2017
The number of drivers using mobile phones while driving has decreased since new penalties were introduced last year, but the latest statistics show that millions still continue to ignore the law.
According to the RAC’s Report on Motoring 2017, 18% of drivers admitted to checking texts, email or social media and 23% to using a handheld mobile at the wheel to make or take a call. When asking business drivers, this number rose to 26%.
Bringing this all into the spotlight, it begs the question: are Britain’s business drivers like Chauffeurs, Taxi or van drivers in danger of losing their driving licence?
Data shows that 30,740 fixed penalty notices were issued in 2017 vs. 49,694 in 2016, an impressive 38% decrease, so it seems that the measures are working. And in the meantime, the government have also increased the amount they are pocketing, as the fines have doubled…
Could you Lose Your Licence?
The government took aggressive measures with penalties in March 2017, increasing the points from 3 to 6, and the fine from £100 to £200 in order to create more of a deterrent against dangerous phone use while at the wheel.
This means that a new driver (e.g. a driver who has had a licence for less than two years) will lose their licence if caught using their phone behind the wheel. And for a more experienced driver, being caught only twice within three years could see you lose your licence, with 12 points for two mobile phone offences.
It is worth noting also that, if the police think that you were particularly distracted by using the phone, and for example not demonstrating that you were in complete control of the vehicle, you could be taken to court, where the fine could increase to £2,000, and the threat of a possible disqualification.
What are the Rules?
Current rules on the Government’s Website dictate…
“It’s illegal to hold a phone or sat nav while driving or riding a motorcycle. You must have hands-free access”. It also states that the hands-free device “cannot block your view of the road and traffic ahead”.
These hands-free devices are:
- a Bluetooth headset
- voice command
- a dashboard holder or mat
- a windscreen mount
- a built-in sat nav
You are allowed to use fully hands-free devices while driving, but it is forbidden from touching or picking them up.
Police have the power to stop you if they believe that you are distracted by your hands-free device.
You can only use a hand-held phone if you need to call 999 or 112 in an emergency and it is unsafe or unpractical to stop.
Parked Vehicle and The Law
This is the area we fear that drivers who spend a lot of time in their vehicles are likely to fall foul of – especially if they rely at times on keeping their engine running to remain warm during long periods spent waiting.
There is a common misconception that you can handle a mobile device as long as the car is not in motion. The definition of driving isn’t specific to motion: it also includes being stationary with the engine switched on. Therefore, it is still an offence to use a hand-held mobile phone or smartphone when the vehicle is stopped at traffic lights, stationary in traffic or is parked with the engine running.
What’s more, the Government states that, in order to use a hands-free device while in a car, you must be “safely parked”. This means being out of the flow of traffic, in an authorised area (e.g. not on a yellow line), and with the engine completely turned off and your handbrake on.
We highly recommend that you visit the Government’s web page detailing the rules to ensure you are up to date and in keeping with current laws.
Scammers targeting unsuspecting Facebook users with fake news
Fake driving legislation messages are currently circulating on all social media platforms, such as the one below. These mention an “on the spot” termination of your driving licence for 3 months if you are caught by the police using a mobile phone.
These aren’t correct, and the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) have released a statement disputing them:
“You might have seen a post on Facebook over the last few days saying a new law has been passed, and anyone caught using a hand-held mobile phone while driving will instantly lose their driving licence for 3 months.
This is not true.
“You can get six penalty points and a £200 fine if you use a hand-held phone when driving. You’ll also lose your licence if you passed your driving test in the last two years.”
Many drivers either don’t know the exact details of the laws surrounding mobile phone use at the wheel or chose to ignore them. We hope that this article will have helped you understand exactly what they are.
The rules are restrictive and may be seen by some as annoying. However, your safety and that of others should always come first. And bear in mind too that your insurance premium could go up if you were caught using your mobile phone at the wheel…