Studies show that drivers using a hands-free or handheld mobile phone are slower at recognising and reacting to hazards.
Even careful drivers can be distracted by a call or text – and a split-second lapse in concentration could result in a crash.
On 1 July 2015 a woman driver who killed a cyclist after using her mobile phone was jailed for five years and banned from driving for 10 years by a Glasgow Court.
Julie Watson went on to delete a record of the call she had made before hitting Alistair Speed. Watson had told Police that she had taken out her phone to call an ambulance. She was not only found guilty of causing Mr Speed's death on the A91 on 5 September 2013 by dangerous driving, but also convicted of "attempting to defeat the ends of justice" by deleting a record of a call on her mobile.
Passing sentence Lord Kinclaven said "driving while using a mobile phone has the capacity to wreck lives and literally kill". He said: "Use of a hand-held mobile phone is in itself an unlawful act".
"The fact an offender is avoidably distracted by the use of a mobile phone when committing an offence of this sort will always make an offence more serious."
Mobile Use and the Law
What does the law say about mobile phones while driving?
It’s illegal to drive a vehicle or ride a motorbike while using a handheld mobile phone or similar device. This includes using your mobile phone to follow a map. Hands-free phones are also a distraction, and you risk prosecution for not having proper control of a vehicle if the Police see you driving poorly while using one.
What is the penalty if caught using a mobile phone while driving?
If you’re caught using a handheld phone while driving, you’ll get 3 penalty points on your licence and a fine of £100. Points on your licence may result in higher insurance costs. If you get just 6 points in the first two years after passing your test, you will lose your licence. You may use a hands-free phone while driving but you can still be prosecuted if you’re not in proper control of your vehicle. The penalties are same as being caught using a handheld phone.
If a case goes to Court, in addition to points, you could face discretionary disqualification on top a maximum fine of £1,000 (or £2,500 in the case of drivers of buses/coaches and goods vehicles).
When is a driver allowed to use a hand-held phone?
There is an exception for calls to 999 or 112 in a genuine emergency where it would be unsafe or impractical to stop. Using 2-way radio equipment when driving is not a specific offence. Remember that a conversation could still distract from the concentration needed to drive safely. If you do not have proper control, then the Police can still take action. You can use hands-free phones, sat navs and 2-way radios when you’re driving or riding, but if the Police think you’re distracted and not in control of your vehicle you could still get stopped and penalised.
What counts as "driving"?
Driving is using a motor vehicle on public roads and can include when a vehicle is stopped at traffic lights or during a traffic hold-up. Therefore you should not use that time to make or receive a call. Park safely and then use the phone (but not on the motorway hard shoulder).