- What the law says
- The £100 ticket and three points
- Hands-free equipment
- The same law for everyone
- GEM’s advice
What the law says
Specific regulations regarding hand-held phones and driving were introduced in December 2003. These prohibited the use of a hand-held phone or similar hand-held device while driving. A hand-held device is 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’. That includes the sending and receiving of spoken or written messages, sending or receiving still or moving images and providing access to the internet. The offence was originally punishable by a £30 non-endorsable fixed penalty ticket.
The £100 ticket and three points
In 2013, in recognition of the risks involved in using a hand-held phone while driving, the penalty has increased to a £100 ticket, with three penalty points. If a case goes to court then the fine rises to a maximum of £1000, or £2500 for drivers of goods vehicles or buses and coaches.
In some circumstances, for example if there has been an accident, then a prosecution for careless or dangerous driving may be justified if a phone was in use at the time of the crash. The penalties on conviction for such offences include heavy fines, endorsement, disqualification and, in serious cases, imprisonment.
Provided that a phone can be operated without holding it, then hands-free equipment is not prohibited by the regulation. However, hands-free phones are also distracting and you still risk prosecution for failing to have proper control of a vehicle under Regulation 104 of the Road Vehicles (Construction and Use) Regulations 1986 if you use a hands-free phone when driving. If there is an incident, the use of any phone or similar device might justify charges of careless or dangerous driving.
Just how distracting a hands-free mobile phone can be has been the subject of numerous research projects in recent years. One Australian report, published in 2005 in the British Medical Journal, showed that using any mobile phone at the wheel, whether hand-held or hands-free, meant a driver was four times more likely to be involved in a crash.
Mobile phones are today an indispensable part of most people’s lives. Using a hand-held phone while driving is dangerous. That’s why you will find yourself with a £100 fine and three points on your licence if you’re caught.
Using a phone hands-free while driving means your attention to the driving task is inevitably reduced as you deal with the call. This leads to an increased risk of having an accident.
If you use your phone a lot, why not make a point of switching it off before a journey and shutting it in the car boot.
Plan a long journey to include time for a coffee break. That’s good practice in itself, but you can check for messages and return calls during your break.
When you’re in the car, don’t do anything other than drive. Take pride in good observation and anticipation. Keep distractions to an absolute minimum.
Q: Are there any exemptions to the mobile phone laws?
A: There is one exemption to the rules. A hand-held phone may be used for calls to 999 in genuine emergencies where it is unsafe or impractical to stop.
Q: I often sit with my daughter, who’s a learner, so that she can get extra practice between her driving lessons. Am I allowed to use a mobile on these journeys?
A: No. The regulations apply to anyone supervising a learner driver, while the learner driver is driving. So you would be liable to the £100 penalty with three points on your licence.
Q: I run a small business. Can I be prosecuted if one of my staff is caught on the phone? After all, I have told everyone often enough not to use their phone in the car and have even offered some employees a hands-free kit.
A: Employers are legally obliged to have a mobile telephone usage policy in place. If one of your staff crashes while on a business call, you and any other directors could be prosecuted under Health and Safety Laws. Simply telling employees not to take calls is not sufficient and even supplying them with a hands-free kit doesn’t provide you with a ‘get out of jail’ card. The police will now routinely obtain mobile phone records of drivers involved in serious or fatal road accidents. Use of a phone in an accident is regarded by the Courts as an aggravating factor in the same way as drunk driving and will result in a custodial sentence.
Q: The law makes sense, but are there specific figures for the number of people who have died on the roads because someone was using a mobile phone while driving?
A: Statistics from the Department for Transport showed that 13 people were killed and more than 400 injured in crashes involving drivers using hand-held mobile phones in Britain in 2005.
The information on this Site is provided on the understanding that GEM Motoring Assist is not rendering legal or other advice. You should consult your own professional advisers as to legal or other advice relevant to any action you wish to take in connection with this website.