Using mobile phones while driving: penalties
- It is against the law to use a hand-held mobile phone while driving any vehicle. This includes using it to read a map or check a text as well as take or make a call
- The penalties for driving carelessly or dangerously when using a handheld or hands-free phone can include disqualification, a large fine and up to two years imprisonment.
- The rules still apply if you’re stopped at traffic lights or queuing in traffic.
- It’s also illegal to use a hand-held phone or similar device when supervising a learner driver or rider
- Using a hands-free device can also result in prosecution such as for driving without due care and attention if the driver is deemed to be distracted from driving. The penalties are the same
THE GOVERNMENT has promised a “tough” new crackdown on people who use their mobile phones while driving – with predictions that penalties will be doubled and include driving bans from the first half of 2017.
Transport Secretary Chris Grayling said during a Parliamentary debate that the Government would “shortly” announce action to tackle the problem after growing outcry at the sometimes lethal practice.
The likelihood is far tougher penalties than were mooted by the Government when public consultations began in December 2015, when the suggestion was an increase in penalties for car and van drivers and motorcyclists from three to four points, and fine increased from £100 to £150, and from three to six points for HGV and bus drivers.
‘Sources’ indicate new penalties of a £200 fine and six points for non-HGV drivers’ first offence and up to £1,000 and disqualification for a second. The six points for just one conviction for a new driver in their first two years on the road would see their licence revoked and the costly learning process start from scratch.
With 12 points bringing a ban and speed cameras catching the careless and unwary, it means that many who drive for a living could be just one text from losing their job.
The calls for action on drivers’ use of mobile phones have been heightened by the Hampshire case of a van driver with eight previous convictions for using a phone while driving who killed a cyclist by running into the back of him at 60mph just seconds after reading a text message.
Mobile phone use was a contributory factor in 21 fatal accidents in 2014 and this was one of 22 in 2015.
Christopher Gard, 30, of Alton, was jailed for nine years at Winchester Crown Court after he admitted causing the death of dad-of-two Lee Martin by dangerous driving in August 2015. Lee was taking part in a time trial on the A31 dual carriageway near Farnham.
Gard was also disqualified from driving for 14-and-a-half years, backdated to April 2016, but will be allowed to drive again subject to passing an extended driving test.
The cyclist’s family released a statement criticising magistrates for failing to disqualify Gard from driving after eight previous convictions dating back to 2009.
Speaking to MPs on the issue of mobile phone use by drivers, Mr Grayling said: “I am very clear that this is an unacceptable practice, and we intend to unveil tough action on it shortly.”
Long life of endorsements
- Penalty points endorsed on your licence count for three years but stay on your driving record for four years.
- ‘Totting up’ 12 or more points brings disqualification
- Motoring offences will be taken into account and penalised by insurance companies for five years
Research by the RAC found illegal use of mobile phones by drivers is on the increase with almost a third admitting to using a hand-held device compared to 8% in 2014.
The RAC found the proportion of drivers who confessed to sending a message or posting on social media while driving rose from 7% to 19%, while some 14% admitted taking photographs or videos.
A Government spokesman said: “We have some of the safest roads in the world and it is totally unacceptable for motorists to endanger lives by using hand held mobile phones while driving.
“Offenders involved in road accidents while using a mobile phone already face serious offences such as causing death by dangerous driving, which can carry a substantial prison term. We have also proposed tougher penalties for mobile phone use to act as a deterrent and ensure it is not tolerated in society.”
It has been illegal to use a hand-held mobile phone while driving since 2003 but it only became an endorseable offence from 27 February 2007, with a fixed penalty fine of £60 – later raised to the present £100 – and three penalty point licence endorsement.
If an employer or manager needs drivers to use a mobile while driving then it should be hands-free – typically a vehicle-integrated unit or a Bluetooth-integrated phone with earpiece.
- The individual driving offences are just part of the picture – employers and company car managers have a Duty of Care to ensure that their company car drivers are driving safely; not managing the risk of company drivers could even put businesses at risk of corporate manslaughter prosecution.