Most people are aware that using a mobile phone handset while driving can be dangerous. However, many people are not aware of the full extent of the law concerning mobile phone use for drivers. Some drivers think it is fine to check their phone while they are in traffic, for example, but this is not true. The police are now introducing new technology to discourage drivers from using their phones. The aim is to make using handsets while driving as socially unacceptable as driving while drunk. Drivers are twice as likely to be in a fatal road accident when texting than drunk. This high-risk activity needs to stop to prevent dangerous driving.
What is the law for using a mobile phone while driving?
It is illegal to hold a mobile phone while you are driving, full-stop. You must remain in full control of your vehicle at all times while driving, even if you stop the car in traffic. Holding and looking at a mobile phone is a distraction which prevents you from keeping your full attention on driving safely. The police can stop and prosecute you if they catch you driving while distracted by holding a mobile phone. It is only legal to use a phone while driving if you have hands-free access. This could be through voice command, Bluetooth, or a built-in satnav. Dashboard or windscreen mounts for phones must not block the driver’s view.
What is the penalty if you are caught using a mobile phone while driving?
If the police catch you committing the offence of driving while on a mobile phone, the DVLA will give you 6 penalty points on your driver’s licence and you will have to pay a £200 fine. If you only passed your driving test within the last 2 years of this penalty, then you could lose your driver’s licence completely. Otherwise, you can be disqualified from driving if you get 12 penalty points within 3 years. If you lose your licence within the first 2 years of having it, then you will have to pay for a provisional licence and then pay for and pass the theory and practical tests if you want to drive again. Whether it is financial loss and inconvenience or more severe such as injury or death, the consequences are not worth checking your phone.
How do the police catch drivers on their mobile phones?
Some drivers are caught on their phones by traffic cameras, or by police on the road or in passing vehicles. They can pull you over or take your details and catch up with you later to prosecute you. Although it is not enforcement technology, the police are introducing new mobile phone detectors to discourage drivers from using them. These detectors do not record camera footage, but they pick up on 2G, 3G, and 4G signals. The signs will flash at cars when they detect phones in use, including texting, calling, or using data. It won’t flash if the driver is using a hands-free Bluetooth device. The detectors cannot tell if the person using the phone is actually the driver or in the passenger seat, but this technology should raise awareness of the problem. Using phones while driving should be as much of a social taboo as driving after drinking. There are currently only 2 of these detectors in the Thames Valley and Hampshire, but the police forces and developers could roll out more of them.