A Timely Reminder of the Dangers of using a Handheld Device Whilst Driving

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).

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