The Highway Code states that you must exercise proper control of your vehicle at all times. You are not allowed to use a hand-held mobile phone or similar when driving. Also if you are supervising a learner driver.
It has been illegal to use a hand-held mobile phone when driving since December 2003. It is actually illegal to use a mobile phone (phone to ear) while not only driving, but when also stopped with the engine on.
The only time you can use a hand-held phone is when dialling 999 or 112, and when it is not safe or impractical to stop. The Highway Code does say you should never use a hands-free device when driving – although legally you can still use them as long as you exercise proper control of your vehicle.
There is a great deal of debate surrounding the use of hands-free devices. There has been a great deal of research carried out that shows people simply can’t concentrate effectively even when using a hands free.
There is actually little cognitive load (concentration) required to hold a mobile phone, where as engaging in a detailed or emotionally driven conversation (even with a hands-free device) can have a huge effect on a driver’s concentration.
The main impact of using a hand-held phone when driving is that both hands are not on the steering wheel, thus the driver has less control. However, the main issue of using a mobile phone when driving is the issue of excessive cognitive load. Drivers simply can’t concentrate when driving and engaging in a detailed conversation!
You can get an automatic fixed penalty notice if you are caught using a hand-held phone when driving. This means you will get 3 penalty points and a £100 fine. If you are driving a bus or good vehicle the punishment is much more severe. You could get a maximum fine of £2,500.
If you refuse to accept the fixed penalty you will be summonsed to appear in court. You will also be taken to court if the policeman thinks the office is so bad that a fixed penalty is not enough. This could be for example if you were driving in a dangerous manor, overtaking etc whist using a mobile phone.
These offences apply to using a mobile phone when driving. If you cause a crash whilst using a mobile, you could be prosecuted for careless or dangerous driving, or if someone dies, death though dangerous driving, which carries a maximum of 14 years in prison.
Your employer maybe prosecuted if they cause or permit you to drive whilst using a phone or to not have proper control of the vehicle. They can also be open to prosecution if they require you to make or receive calls whilst driving. Finally your employer can be prosecuted if you drive dangerously due to the fact that you are using a phone installed by your employer. The last note made is a little vague, as it would be hard to work out how exactly your dangerous driving was attributed to using a phone. However, there have been cases where this has occurred.
Our advice when using a mobile phone in a car is:
1. Always act in accordance with the law.
2. Always consider yours and other peoples safety.
3. If you need to talk, find a safe place to stop and switch your engine off. If you miss a phone call you can always call someone back a few moment later.
4. Avoid the temptation to check a text, email or the latest Facebook status from your friends!
5. If you feel despite your best efforts you find yourself wanting to use your phone when driving, put it safely in the boot of your vehicle. This way you may find playing with it a little trickier to say the least!
During our advanced driving courses we help drivers understand how much of a distraction using a mobile phone can be, and how you can guard against wanting to use them when driving.