Don't use your phone at the wheel unless….

Last week new driving laws came in to effect, which have brought about changes to child seat requirements, as well as heftier penalties for those who insist on using their mobile phones whilst behind the wheel.

Some people seem confused by the recent changes and are now unsure what they can and can’t do with their devices whilst driving.  Here is our quick rundown of where you now stand.

The Penalty

As of 1st March 2017 those drivers caught using their phones, or any other mobile device, will be automatically fined £200 (up from £100) and handed six points on their licence (up from three points).  For new drivers (i.e. individuals who have had their licence for less than two years) this constitutes an immediate ban.

It is also important to note that gone are the days where you could dodge the points by taking a driver awareness course instead.  There is no longer any option regarding this

What constitutes “using” a phone?

It is illegal to use a mobile phone (or tablet, for that matter) whilst you are behind the wheel of your car.

It is important to note that this does not simply mean you cannot use your phone “whilst driving”.

For example, you will also face a fine and fixed penalty points if you use your phone whilst:

  • stopped at traffic lights
  • queuing in traffic
  • you are parked up and the engine is running

The one exception is if you need to make an emergency call and it is unpractical or unsafe to pull over, park and turn off the engine.

If you are at all unsure whether you can use your phone or not, the safest thing to do is leave it in your bag or pocket for the duration of your journey, and forget about it.

But I need use it as a SatNav …

Many people do use their phones as a SatNav instead of buying a separate device, and it’s important to be aware that this does not necessarily have to change.  However, you must follow these two simple rules to avoid facing any form of prosecution:

  1. Your phone must be held securely in an appropriate holder within your car
  2. You must not touch any of the buttons on your phone whilst you are behind the wheel (as above)

This means that you cannot look for an alternative route whilst you are stuck in a traffic jam.  In this instance, you must wait for the first opportunity to pull over and park, ensuring your engine is turned off before you do anything on your phone.

So I can’t use my phone at all?

Before you start panicking, no, that is not entirely the case.  You are still able to use your phone whilst driving, provided that you are doing so via a hands-free kit and that at no point you touch any of the buttons on your device.

However, it is vital you are aware the police could still pull you over and slap you with the same penalty if they think you are driving carelessly whilst using a hands-free, or you are not in full control of your vehicle.

Prosecutors and judges will continue to take additional factors in to account when determining dangerous driving cases.  This includes looking at whether SatNavs, hands-free, smoking (including vaping), changing radio stations, eating or drinking have had any impact on your ability to drive safely.



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