The Law and Using Your Mobile Phone While Driving
Since 1 December 2003 it has been illegal to drive in the UK while using a hand held mobile phone. Previous to this legislation the only way a motorist would face prosecution for using a mobile phone would be if they were charged with failing to keep control of their car while they were using it.
When the 2003 law first came into effect it was largely ignored, leading to debate over whether or not the £30 fixed penalty notice was enough of a deterrent. Although more than 75,000 penalty notices were given out in 2004, many drivers still blatantly flouted the law and it was decided that the fine was not effective enough. From 27 February 2007 it doubled to £60 (rising to up to £1000 should the case be taken to court), and driving while using a hand-held mobile phone became an endorsable offence, with 3 Penalty Points added to the offender's licence.
Ok, so what exactly is the law now?The law states that it is illegal to ride a motorbike or drive a car while you are using a hand held communication device. Hands free phones may be used, but they are ultimately a distraction and you are still open to a charge of careless driving should a police officer think you are driving poorly while using one.
What is a 'Hand Held Communication Device'?A hand held device is something that must at some point be held in your hand while you are making or receiving a voice call or other form of communication. It includes PDAs that can be used to download emails, text messages, picture messages etc . Basically to stay on the safe side of the law, any hand held device that has a communication function is best avoided while driving.
I am still careful with my driving when talking on my mobile phone. Why can't I use it?No matter how safe you think you are, it's still dangerous to Use a Mobile While you're Driving. Studies have shown that a driver’s reaction can be up to 50% slower than usual and the risk of crashing is increased by 4 times when they are using a mobile phone. Reactions of drivers using mobiles were recorded as being 30% worse than that of a driver who was over the drink driving limit. Texting or speaking on the phone distracts you from what you are doing and you are forced to split your concentration between driving and chatting, when you should be focusing your full attention on the road.
Can I use a hands free phone?Yes you can. Essentially, you are allowed to push buttons, but not to hold the phone, so make sure it’s in a cradle which is attached to your dashboard. However, do remember that if you are stopped for driving in a poor or careless manner and the police discover that you were using a hands-free mobile phone, you can still be prosecuted for not having proper control of your vehicle - the penalty for which is the same as it is for using a hand held phone while driving - a £60 fine and 3 penalty points.
If you are unlucky enough to end up in an accident, your mobile phone records may be used as evidence to prove that you were distracted at the time of the accident. This could lead to further points on your licence, large fines and in some cases, even a prison sentence.