It’s been illegal to use a hand held mobile phone while driving since December 2003.
If you have to use a hand held mobile then you'll first have to stop driving, which means parking up safely and legally with the handbrake on. The Highway Code (239) says that if you have to stop on the roadside you must switch off your engine so you should do that too – it'll help avoid any doubt that you may still be driving, and is better for the environment too.
If you're stopped but in a queue of traffic, at lights or in congestion for example, then you're still driving as you are if your car has automatic stop-start and the engine's cut out briefly.
Actually, there's worldwide evidence that using any sort of phone has a considerable effect on accident risk, and while it's not a specific offence, using a hands-free phone can have a major bearing on whether or not you could be found guilty of careless or dangerous driving.
If you need to make or take a call
- Stop or leave it to go to voicemail – even if you have a hands-free phone.
- If you must talk, and have a hands-free phone, keep conversations short and simple or say that you’ll find a safe and legal place to stop and phone back.
- Employers should issue specific company advice on mobile phone use.
Calling someone's mobile
If you call someone and think that they might be driving, ask:
- Are you driving?
- Is it safe to talk?
- Do you want to call me when it is safe to stop?
From March 2017 the Fixed Penalty Notice for using a handheld mobile phone while driving is £200 and 6 points
Even if you’re otherwise driving safely:
- You could be fined £200 and get six points on your licence.
- 6 points would mean losing your licence if you're less than two years from passing your test.
- Refuse to accept the fixed penalty and you could be taken to court.
- If the police think the offence so bad that a fixed penalty isn’t enough you could be taken to court.
- Fines in court will almost certainly be larger and disqualification is possible – the maximum fine in a court is £1,000, or £2,500 you were driving a bus or a goods vehicle.
You only need to be seen
These offences apply simply if you’re seen using a mobile while driving.
The police have even been using unmarked lorries to observe drivers who text or phone as the higher seating position means they can see and record offences not normally visible from a car.
If your driving’s bad, or if there’s a crash while you’re using the phone, you could be prosecuted for careless driving, dangerous driving or, if someone is killed, for causing death by careless or dangerous driving.
Fines can be much greater, and prison's almost certain if a death's caused.
While it's an offence to be seen using a hand held phone, regardless of whether driving has been affected, this is not the case for hands-free phones.
If you’re seen not to be in control of a vehicle while using a hands-free phone you can be prosecuted for that offence.
The penalties for 'not in proper control' are:
- £100 fine and 3 points, or
- Up to £1,000 (£2,500 if you were driving a bus or a goods vehicle) if it goes to court.
Your employer may be open to prosecution:
- If they cause or permit you to drive while using a phone or to not have proper control of the vehicle.
- If they require you to make or receive calls whilst driving.
- If you drive dangerously because you're using a phone installed by your employer.
It's not a specific offence to cycle and use a hand held mobile phone but you could be prosecuted for careless or dangerous cycling.
- You can make an emergency call to 999 or 112 as long as it’s unsafe or impractical to stop first.
- You can use a two-way radio but not any other device that sends or receives data.
- Handheld device – something that "is or must be held at some point during the course of making or receiving a call or performing any other interactive communication function".
- Device – "similar" to a mobile phone if it performs an interactive communication function by transmitting and receiving data.
The AA Trust has embarked on a yearlong campaign to change behaviour towards driver distraction.
A young film-maker became so uncomfortable by her peers’ driving and use of mobiles at the wheel that she has produced a film with a safety twist, thanks to funding from the AA Charitable Trust.
Following on from Cadence, and timed to coincide with the increase in penalties for hand-held mobile phone offences, the AA Charitable Trust and Think! are raising awareness of the dangers of distracted driving with a new ad by adam&eveDDB to be shown in cinemas, video on demand, and online.
The ad highlights the danger of texting whilst driving with a narrative that follows a couple leaving a nightclub: the woman, who is the designated driver for her intoxicated boyfriend, starts to reply to a text as they start their journey. The boyfriend notices and suggests they swap places, in a move that makes a bold statement on the dangers of using a mobile phone whilst driving.
14 March 2017