New Penalties for Driving and Using a Hand-Held Mobile Phone From March 2017

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using a mobile phone while driving offence

From March 1 2017 the penalty for driving and using a hand-held phone (or other device) has increased to 6 points and £200 fine.

Although it has been illegal to use a hand-held mobile phone or device while driving or stopped in traffic with the engine on since December 2003, the Government has introduced tougher penalties.

According to research by Think.direct.gov.uk, drivers are four times more likely to be in a crash if they use a phone. Figures obtained from the Department for Transport show that a driver impaired or distracted by their phone was a contributory factor in 492 accidents in Britain in 2014.

What does the offence of ‘Using Mobile Phones When Driving’ entail?

  • The law provides that it is “It’s illegal to use a hand-held phone or similar device while driving, or riding a motorcycle”.
  • The rules are the same if you’re stopped at traffic lights or queuing in traffic.
  • The offence applies to any usage of the phone (or other device) including making phone calls, viewing a map, reading a text and viewing files, apps, web pages or social media.
  • It’s also illegal to use a hand-held phone or similar device when supervising a learner driver or rider.

If the police determine that you are not in control of your vehicle – due to distraction from any activity such as using the radio, sat nav, hands –free, mobile phone or other device, you can be stopped.

 

As well as the health and safety of those on the roads (including drivers and pedestrians), there will be significant costs (financial and reputational) to employers if their employees are banned and/or fined from driving as a consequence of breaching this new law.

Employers should already be providing hands-free equipment if they want to be able to contact their employees, or have their customers contact their employees, when they are on the road. However, following this new law, employers could also invest in voice recognition on mobile phones to allow employees to respond to texts/emails using hands-free.

However please note that even this may not be sufficient to protect an employer if using even hands-free causes the employee to drive dangerously – which could happen if they are more focused on the call than the road. If employers do not provide such equipment, they should be aware (and accept) that they will have to wait for “written” responses until their employees are off the road – this could be a significant amount of time for those employees who are on the road most of the day.

An employer should not take any steps that are seen to be encouraging their employees to break the law and following this new law, that would include having expectations of quick responses to emails and/or texts. It is advisable for employers to make it compulsory that all employees, who are on the road for significant periods of time, have a “hands-free” phone or device – whether that cost be absorbed by the employer or not. This will be money well spent for any employer.

If you are an employer and require advice on creating or updating your employment policies please click here.

Advice from IBB Solicitors

Any touching of the phone (or other device) can be considered ‘using’, therefore in order to reduce the risk of prosecution please consider the following:

  1. Keep your mobile in a craddle or glove box
  2. Do not touch your phone, sat nav or other device even if you stop at lights. Set up your hands-free, sat nav or play lists before you begin your journey.
  3. If you call someone, and they are driving, end the call.
  4. If you are a passenger, and the driver is using a phone or other device, ask them to stop.
  5. You can use a mobile phone via a hands-free device or blue tooth technology. However if you are involved in a collision, this can be used against you.

Contact our road traffic solicitors for expert advice

If you or a family member has been charged with a road traffic offence, we can help. Call our road and driving offences solicitors today on 0330 999 4999 for immediate help. Alternatively, email us at roadtraffic@ibblaw.co.uk or complete our online form.