Mobile phones in cars

100,000 drivers break mobile phone law at any one time

25 February 2009

From a peer of the realm to a Championship footballer1, recent court sentences for using a mobile phone while driving now defines a crime that crosses all social divides. To that extent, 170,000 convictions in 2006 is just the tip of the iceberg, says the AA.

The AA calculates that, if there are 10 million cars on the road at any time during the day and the government says one per cent of drivers are at the wheel holding a phone; one hundred thousand drivers are breaking the law at that moment. This revelation is despite the fact that this Friday (27/02) is the second anniversary of the introduction of 3 penalty points for using a hand-held mobile phone.

AA comment

"Recent court sentences illustrates that in-car mobile phone abuse isn't a crime committed by a certain type or class of driver. It is almost an addiction of the masses and drivers have to break the habit," says Edmund King, the AA's president.

King warns: "The case involving a Labour life peer sentenced to prison for dangerous driving sends out a strong message to all drivers to expect the unexpected when driving.

"Although the judge made clear that the text messaging had finished before the accident took place and was not connected to the fatal incident, the AA reminds every driver to think about the dangers of in-car phone use before driving.

"Another case last week saw a driver convicted of careless driving for using a hands-free phone which was deemed to be a contributory factor in a fatal crash. A lorry driver was previously convicted of causing death by dangerous driving after using a hands-free phone.

"Motorists need to understand the dangers and consequences of misusing a mobile phone whilst driving. The ultimate danger is death and consequences can be anything from jail, penalty points to a driving ban and higher insurance premiums.

"In the event of an accident, police now routinely check mobile phone records to find out whether use of a phone, whether hand-held or hands-free was a contributory cause. All too often we see mobile motoring madness on our roads but motorists must now get the message about the dangers."

Insurance premiums

While police forces are cracking down on motorists who risk lives by using hand-held mobile phones, insurance companies are also cracking down by increasing the premiums quoted for offenders – or even refusing cover.

Offenders can find that their premium could rise by as much as the fine itself – and remain in place for up to three years, increasing the cost of the offence by up to four times the original fine.

In a survey of eight insurers from its extensive panel, AA Car Insurance, found that one refused to quote for new business with a single mobile telephone offence. All others increased premiums by between 4.2 per cent and 18.1 per cent, reflecting how seriously the industry views this offence. If a simultaneous driving without care and attention offence is added, half of the insurers refused to quote while others imposed premium increases of up to 50.5 per cent.

An offender involved in a collision that causes death or injury as a direct result of using a hand-held mobile telephone (or even a hands-free one if it was the direct cause of loss of concentration) could find their insurance voided and they would find it extremely difficult to purchase cover in the future.

The law and mobile phones »

1Lord Ahmed was jailed for 12 weeks for dangerous driving after sending and receiving text messages and Ipswich Town midfielder David Norris, 28, was fined £400 after admitting driving while using a mobile phone.

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25 February 2009