The New Mobile Phone Ban and What It Means for Drivers
A quick glance at your mobile phone while you’re driving may seem innocent enough. However, the fact is thousands of accidents occur on Britain’s roads each year as a result of distracted drivers.
Record numbers of motorists are putting themselves and others at risk. In fact, according to the 2016 RAC Report on Motoring, one in five drivers admits to checking social media in traffic, representing a 15% increase from 2015 figures. Alarmingly, some motorists are taking it even further, with 14% taking photos or video while driving, and 6% admitting to using their phone “most or all of the time” while behind the wheel.
Tough new mobile phone laws have recently come into effect across the UK (March 1st, 2017), which will hopefully deter the thousands of motorists who persist in using their mobile while driving.
This article will help you understand the legalities behind using your mobile phone in a vehicle, facts about the introduction of the new penalties and how to stay focused on the road.
Using Mobile Phones While Driving: The Law
Using a cell phone while driving is illegal in the UK, and has been since December 2003. Motorists are not permitted to touch their mobile at any point while the car is operational. The law still applies when stopped at traffic lights, sitting in a queue of traffic or at any point while the car is in motion.
Many motorists flaunt the law, including using their mobile phone mapping while driving, with some taking it even further and making a call on loudspeaker, texting, checking social media and even taking photos.
When driving a mobile device is only permitted if connected to a hands-free system, and there is no need to touch the phone. Many hands-free devices have the ability to fix a mobile to the windscreen or dashboard and use Bluetooth technology or voice command to enable the driver to accept calls without having to touch the device.
However, using a hands-free system does not mean you are completely in the clear. Police still have the right to stop and prosecute you if they believe you are not in complete control of your vehicle.
New Changes to the Law
In an effort to deter motorists from using mobile phones behind the wheel, tougher penalties were introduced by the Department for Transport on March 1st, 2017.
The new penalties are double the previous ones and involve a hefty fine of £200 and six penalty points for any motorist caught using a hand-held device.
Furthermore, court action will apply to drivers who are caught using their mobile on more than one occasion or if 12 penalty points have been accrued. Visiting the Magistrates Court can result in fines of up to £1000 and disqualification from driving.
Under the new law, beginner drivers who have received their license in the last two years will have their license revoked and must re-apply to take both the practical and theory tests again.
For those wondering if there are any exceptions, the only time motorists are allowed to handle their mobile phone is when the car is safely parked with the engine off or when calling 112 or 999 for emergency services, and stopping is unsafe or impractical.
How to Stay Focused
The easiest way to make sure you stay focused on the road is to reduce the temptation to look at your phone. Turn your mobile phone to the ‘do not disturb’ function, put it in flight mode or even turn it off each time you get in your car. Putting it somewhere that is completely out of reach, such as the boot of the car, will ensure that the only time you look at your phone is when you are safely pulled over. Just remember to turn off the engine otherwise you may still be breaking the law.
Sometimes it’s not always practical to be completely disconnected, so if you do need to take calls while in the car, invest in a Bluetooth headset that is completely hands-free.
While penalties under the new laws are a significant increase, this drastic action is designed to curb the growing trend of social acceptance in using a mobile while driving. The best way to stay on the right side of the law is to turn your phone off and put it somewhere that is not easily reachable. The temptation to check an incoming text or take a call can be difficult, but losing concentration on the road for a second can result in devastating consequences.
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