Although it has been illegal to use a hand held mobile phone while driving, or while stopped with the engine on, since December 2003, the current penalties clearly do not provide an adequate deterrent to the extent that the law is being blatantly flouted and disregarded.
Accordingly, there is now a movement to try and make the use of a mobile telephone whilst driving culturally unacceptable along the lines of historical and ongoing public awareness campaigns against drink driving.
During a recent week long crackdown by the police, eight thousand drivers were caught using their mobile telephones whilst driving.
The Law | Kangs Motoring Law Advisors
The law is straightforward, it is illegal to use a hand held telephone or similar device while driving a motor vehicle the definition of which includes cars, motorcycles, goods vehicles, buses, coaches and taxis.
The likelihood is that the police will consider that a vehicle is being driven even if it is stationary at traffic lights, stuck in a traffic jam or other queue of traffic.
Even if the vehicle is off the road and is not moving, the driver may be considered to be driving if the engine is on. Accordingly, if a stop is made in order to use a mobile phone, it would be wise to turn the engine off first.
What is a Hand Held or Similar Device?
A hand held communications device is something that ‘is or must be held at some point during the course of making or receiving a voice call or performing any other interactive communication function’.
Not only does this include a mobile phone but also a handheld PDA which can be used to download emails, text messages and picture messages.
This effectively means that any hand held device that has a communication function should be avoided whilst driving if an individual wishes to stay within the law.
Hands Free Equipment
The operation of a hands free phone is deemed to be within the law provided that it can be operated without holding it.
Pushing buttons is allowed but not actually holding the phone.
Accordingly, the hands free phone should be kept in a cradle which is attached to the dashboard of the car, or on the handlebars of a motorbike, or the use of Bluetooth.
An individual using a hands free kit but actually holding the phone to press buttons will be in contravention of the law.
In the event of an accident whilst using a hands free device, the driver may still face prosecution.
The only exemptions are:
- Emergency calls to 999, or 112, where it is unsafe or impractical to stop first.
- The use of two-way radios, but not any other device that sends or receives data.. However, they may still be regarded as distractive and prosecution could follow following an accident or other driving incident.
Employers are not liable simply because they supplied the equipment.
However, an employer may be open to prosecution if:
- they cause or permit their employees to drive while using a phone or to not have proper control of the vehicle.
- they require their employees to make or receive calls whilst driving.
- an employee drives dangerously whilst using a phone installed by the employer.
It is not a specific offence to cycle and use a hand held mobile phone but a prosecution may arise for careless or dangerous cycling.
Until 1st March 2017 a breach of the law will result in a fine of up to £100 with 3 penalty points endorsed on the driver’s licence.
From 1st March 2017 the penalties for such an offence will be doubled and the fine will increase to £200 and 6 penalty points endorsed on the driver’s licence.
This new increase reflects the serious view taken by the authorities for breaching this law and their intent to remove what is regarded as socially unacceptable.
Can Kangs Solicitors Help Me? | Kangs Solicitors Motoring Defence Team
At Kangs Solicitors we have a team of solicitors experienced in representing clients who have been charged with motoring offences of all manner, from the point of arrest to trial before the Magistrates’ Court, Crown Court and, where appropriate, the Court of Appeal.
If you have any queries or require any advice with regard to being involved in an incident as set out above, or any other offence, then please do not hesitate to contact our team through one of the following: