Using a mobile phone while driving has been an illegal act since 2003, but that has not stopped thousands of British drivers from being caught and punished for using their devices on the road.
178,000 drivers were stopped by the police for using a phone at the wheel in 2011-12, and while that figure dropped by almost half to 95,000 in 2015-16, officers were found to have been handing out a substantial average of 40 fines an hour across just England, Wales and Northern Ireland in November 2016.
On top of that, research from the Government’s THINK! campaign found that drivers are four times more likely to experience a car crash if using their phone while driving, with reaction times being two times slower than if you drink and drive.
Coming into force on March 1, 2017, penalties for using a mobile at the wheel has been doubled with drivers now receiving 6 points on their license on top of a £200 fine – rather than the previous 3 points and £100 fine. This can result in higher insurance costs, while drivers who have had their license for under two years risk having it revoked entirely by using a mobile while driving. Lorry and bus drivers could also be suspended, threatening their long term career.
So what does the law say about the use of a mobile phone while on the road? Here we take a look at the key facts to help drivers remain responsible when travelling.
No hand-holding: It is illegal to use a mobile device in your hand when driving. This is the case whether you are speaking to someone on a call, texting, or following a map for navigation. It does not matter if you are moving, waiting at traffic lights, or totally stationary while in standstill traffic.
In addition to this, it is also illegal to use a handheld device while supervising a learner driver.
Hands free: Though you cannot hold your phone on the road, you can still make use of it.
This requires a hands free set up, in place before you start the engine, and means that you can use map navigation apps to get you to where you need to be.
Be aware, though – you may still be prosecuted if the police determine that your mobile is a distraction for you while at the wheel and may prevent you from driving safely.
Park up: If you wish to use your mobile phone in your car, you must be parked in a safe place. The only time you can use your phone while driving is when it is unsafe to stop and you need to call the emergency services.
Though it may be tempting to use you mobile while driving, the law is clear on the matter. The government’s THINK! campaign suggests that devices are stored in the glove compartment of a car, while apps limiting functionality for texting and other features are also available to download.