For over 10 years it has been illegal to use a hand-held device whilst driving. Although the dangers associated with using a mobile phone are obvious, an increasing number of drivers are falling foul of the law. With growing media attention, increased petitioning by the RAC and some high-profile accidents, the campaign against using mobiles while driving has become even more prominent. So prominent in fact; on March 1st 2017, the government decided to change the Mobile Phone Driving law and introduced tougher punishments. Even the Prime Minister has pledged to make this issue as socially unacceptable as drink-driving.
Why have these changes been made?
Any driver who becomes distracted from the road and temporarily unaware of the cars and their surroundings automatically increases the possibility of causing an accident.
According to the 2016 RAC Report on Motoring:
- 1 in 5 motorists admit they check social media in traffic
- 1 in 2 drivers will use their phone for calls while stuck in traffic.
- 14% say they take images or video while driving
- 20% have written emails, texts or social media updates behind the wheel
- 6% admit they use their hand-held phone “most or all of the time” while driving.
The RAC Report on Motoring says “it is difficult to say to what extent the distractions from hand-held mobile phone use cause accidents, or whether this problem has become more acute, but it is likely that official statistics understate the problem”.
According to the RAC figures for 2015, 22 people were killed and 99 seriously injured on UK roads with a mobile phone as a contributing factor to the accidents.
These alarming statistics reveal the reality of this modern problem think.direct.gov.uk states, ‘You are four times more likely to be in a crash if you use your phone.’ Ultimately a distracted driver is dangerous.
A law to stop drivers from using their mobile phones while behind the wheel was first introduced in December 2003. But in 2007 if you committed the offence you would receive 3 points on your license as well as a £60 fine, which increased to £100 from 2013. Four years later the penalty fine has doubled to £200 and six points on your licence.
Today, if drivers clock up 6 penalty points in their first two years of driving (rather than the normal 12 points) they will now have their licence revoked. This reinforcement also means that new drivers will lose their licence and will have to take both their theory and practical test again.
According to the Express, RoSPA Road Safety Manager Nick Lloyd said: “Hopefully these new stricter penalties will mean drivers think twice.”
Can you use a hands-free phone while driving?
You can use a fully hands-free phone while driving but you are prohibited from touching or picking it up. Any hands-free devices should be fully set up via Bluetooth before you drive, for example; then you can take phone calls without physical handling the device at any point.
However, even if you’re using a hands-free device the police still have the power to stop you. if they believe you are distracted by this device. According to the RAC, some road safety groups believe mobile phones should be completely switched off while driving, to avoid any distractions.
Can you use your phone as a Sat Nav?
The new law specifically states that it is illegal to hold a mobile phone to follow a map and find out directions.
If you wish to use smartphone navigation or a mapping app it must be mounted in a hands-free holder. Therefore, it is still in clear view but it wouldn’t interfere while you’re driving.
Can you use your phone in an emergency?
You can only use a hand-held phone if you need to call 999 or 112 in an emergency and it is unsafe or unpractical to stop. But it is still illegal to read a text or check social media on your phone when you are behind the wheel.
Can you pull over to check your phone?
Yes, as long as you are parked safely and your engine is switched off before you check your phone.
What if you’re not moving?
In the RAC Report on Motoring 2016, a staggering 47% of drivers said they think it’s OK to check social media or text messages while stopped in traffic.
Contrary to what some people may think, this new law still applies when your vehicle is stopped at lights or in traffic. If your engine is running, your phone should be nowhere near your hands or eye line.
Advice to help you stop using your phone
If you have to keep yourself accessible, be sure to pair your phone to the cars Bluetooth, so you can still take calls.
The easiest way to not be distracted by using your mobile phone in the car is to switch it off.
Place the phone in the glove box or handbag, out of sight then switch your phone to silent mode, so you won’t be distracted by the screen lighting up or message alert sounds. On some smartphones you can use the ‘do not disturb’ mode, this allow calls from favoured numbers only, silencing all other calls and alerts.