Penalties For Using A Phone While Driving
What are the rules for using your phone in the car? According to a recent study, almost two-thirds of motorists are unaware of the consequences of using their phone while driving.
This general ignorance of motorists highlights the lack of enforcement of updated motoring laws, such as smoking while driving and using your phone at the wheel. Campaigners feel that not enough awareness is being made about the dangers of driving without due care and attention.
The reason for this is simple – people do not judge the risks of an accident. You’ve passed your test, you’ve been driving for years and you know everything about the roads you drive on every day. This attitude creates complacency and an attitude of familiarity that overlooks the fact that driving is, and always has been, highly dangerous.
Fortunately, one thing we do all the time is to make decisions to do things based on the risk of being caught. That’s why, in 2017, the penalty for using your phone while driving doubled.
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Using a phone while driving UK stats
- 1 in 4 motorists feel that other drivers using their phones is a leading road safety concern
- 25% of motorists admit to making or receiving calls while driving
- 49% of drivers are texting or checking social media
- 36% are taking pictures or recording videos
- 25% of accidents are caused by texting while driving
- Texting while driving is 6 times more likely to cause an accident than drunk driving
- Texting while driving slows your brake reaction speed by 18%
If you cause an accident by using a mobile while driving, you will incur serious penalties. The government is considering increasing the penalty for causing death by dangerous or careless driving from 14 years to life imprisonment. A two-year driving ban is also obligatory.
So, if getting caught don’t cost you any money, only time, it’s no surprise that 40% of motorists admit they check social media in traffic. Indeed, almost 50% of drivers will use their phone for calls while stuck in traffic.
The RAC Report on Motoring says “it is difficult to say to what extent the distractions from hand-held mobile phone use cause accidents, or whether this problem has become more acute, but it is likely that official statistics understate the problem.” After all, who’s going to admit to a crime during a survey?
However, studies from the United States demonstrate a 40% reduction in A&E traffic collision cases after bans on using phones in cars were introduced in several States. So, there seems to be some link between driving distractions and accidents.
However, you are allowed to use your phone while driving for emergencies. You are allowed to make 999 or 112 calls while driving, but only if it’s not otherwise safe to stop.
So… if you’re in a high-speed car chase against bad guys, you can call the police for help.
Any hands-free devices should be fully set up before you drive, so you can take calls without handling the device.
The police still have the power to stop you if they believe you have been distracted by using a mobile phone while driving, even if it’s fully hands-free. Some road safety groups believe mobile phones should be completely switched off while driving, to avoid any distractions.
Using your phone as a sat nav
Using hands-free phone kits is currently legal in the UK, although police still have the right to penalise any hands-free user they think is being distracted and isn’t in control of their vehicle.
It’s no excuse to say you’re simply following the mapping on your hand-held device and that’s why you’ve picked it up. The mobile phone law specifically refers to this, stating it is illegal to use a hand-held mobile to follow a map.
If you wish to use smartphone navigation or a mapping app, fix the phone to the windscreen or dashboard. But make sure it’s in the right place.
If you have to stay contactable, pair your phone up to Bluetooth, whether an in-ear device or connected directly to your vehicle. More and more cars have Bluetooth connectivity as standard as part of their infotainment packages, so if you have it, use it.
When using your phone to play music, create a playlist before setting off so you don’t have to change tracks you don’t like. Alternatively, give the DJ duties over to your passenger.
If you use your phone as a sat nav, plot your route before setting off, just like a dedicated sat nav device. This means you won’t have to pick up your phone while you’re driving and risk being caught and accused of using your phone.
Mobile phones and other driving offences
You can be convicted with a Dangerous Driving charge for “using a mobile phone or other hand-held electronic equipment whether as a sat nav, or to compose or read text messages when the driver was avoidably and dangerously distracted by that use; R v Browning (2001) EWCA Crim 1831, R v Payne  EWCA Crim 157.”
Careless or Inconsiderate Driving
If using a phone while driving causes you to drive carelessly, you can be convicted under a CD10 conviction code. You can get this if using a mobile phone or other hand-held electronic equipment causes you to be avoidably (but not dangerously) distracted, resulting in careless or inconsiderate driving.