Tougher laws on using mobile phones while driving come into force today!
The penalties for using a mobile phone while driving will become a lot more costly as of today. But, do you know what the laws are?
Police forces regard using mobiles while driving as one of the Fatal Four causes of road deaths. That is reflected in a change to how officers deal with those they catch from today, March 1.
How are the penalties changing?
From March 1 the fine for using a mobile phone while driving will double to £200. The number of points on your licence will also double to six.
Is it different for new drivers?
The punishment for driving while using a mobile phone will be the same no matter how long you’ve been driving. Newer drivers are at more risk of losing their licence. Anyone who has held their licence for less than two years will have it revoked if they pick up six penalty points. This is different than the 12 points for those who have had their licence longer. So a novice driver will lose their licence for their first driving offence while using a mobile offence.
How are the penalties handed down?
The fine and penalty points are dealt with by way of a fixed penalty notice (FPN). This is the same as they were before March 1. This is a conditional offer and means if you’re caught by a police officer you basically have two choices. Accept guilt, pay the fine and take the points, and the matter will be closed. If you don’t accept that you are guilty, you will be summonsed to appear in court. However, police don’t have to offer you a FPN. If they think what you were doing is serious enough, already have too many points on your licence or don’t have a UK licence, you could be taken to court instead.
Are the penalties different if you choose to go to court and are found guilty?
They are a lot harsher than the FPN. You could be fined up to £1,000 if you are found guilty. You could also lose your licence. If you’re driving a bus or a goods vehicle courts can fine you up to £2,500.
Are FPNs different depending on what you’re driving?
Nope, they are exactly the same. Whether you’re in a sports car, on a 50cc scooter or an articulated lorry, the fixed penalty notice fine and points are identical.
Why are the penalties changing?
The Government ran a consultation on whether people thought there should be tougher penalties for people caught using their phones while driving. It said previous penalties imposed for the offence had not seen a “sustained reduction in observed mobile phone use”. In short, the Government hopes introducing tougher penalties will be a stronger deterrent and help bring down mobile phone use behind the wheel.
Can you be given a FPN if you use a phone while supervising a learner driver?
Yes, that’s illegal as well.
Can you use a phone while stopped at traffic lights or in queuing traffic?
No – you must stay in full control of your vehicle at all times. If the engine is running while you use a mobile phone in the driver’s seat, even with handbrake applied, you risk police judging you to not be in full control.
What should I do if I need to take or make a call?
Simple: Find a safe place to pull over, stop and turn the car engine off before using your phone. Most mobile phones have voicemail services and the ability to find out the number of missed calls – use these facilities if you can’t pull over in time.
What about hands free systems?
It is not illegal to use hands free systems to make or take phone calls while driving. However, it does still create a risk of you becoming distracted. The safest bet is still to pull over and stop driving. But, if you’re going to use a hands free device or Bluetooth systems to use your phone, you cannot touch the phone in any way while driving.
Can a phone be used as a sat-nav?
Yes, as long as it is programmed before you start driving and you don’t touch it while you are. This even means having to reprogramme it. It’s the same for dedicated sat-nav devices.
Can you use a phone in an emergency?
If you are faced with a genuine emergency where it is unsafe or impractical to stop, you can use your phone to call ONLY 999 or 112, the emergency numbers.
Do the rules apply to other devices?
Basically, if you are doing anything which distracts you or causes police to think you’re not in full control of your vehicle, you will be stopped. So reading maps, searching for a pen in the passenger footwell or trying to do up your tie are out as well. Obviously using bigger electronic devices like iPads or laptops is also a big no-no.