Mobile Phone Driving Penalties Increased
As part of an ongoing campaign to promote safe driving, the penalty for holding and using your phone while driving has once again been increased. Drivers caught handling their phones or other hand-held devices in the car will now face six penalty points on their license and a £200 fine.
The increase is thought to act as a deterrent to the crime in a bid to change the current culture, where far too many drivers are still using phones in the car, often with fatal consequences. Six points on a licence can be a serious blow to many – particularly new drivers – if you incur six penalty points in the first two years after passing your driving test, the DVLA will revoke your licence. Points on your licence will result in higher insurance premiums.
Driving Whilst Using Your Phone & The Law
The law pertaining to driving whilst using a mobile phone first changed in 2003, when it was becoming increasingly apparent that it was highly dangerous to do so. You are four times more likely to be in a crash if you use your phone. Your reaction times are two times slower if you text and drive than if you drink drive, and this increases to three times if you use a handheld phone. Since 2003, the penalties have increased twice, from £60 and three penalty points to £100 and three penalty points in 2007, and then to £200 and six penalty points in March 2017. This penalty can increase hugely for drivers of HGV vehicles, coach and bus drivers; where fines of up to £2500 can be handed out to offenders. Such penalties for vocational drivers could have devastating effects on individual’s livelihoods, as the DVLA will issue such drives a warning letter referring to the risk of mobile phone use and that they could be required to attend a driver conduct hearing before a Traffic Commissioner, which means if a vocational HGV, bus or coach driver is convicted, they run the risk of being summoned to a driver conduct hearing before the Traffic Commissioner, who has the power to suspend or revoke vocational driving licences.
The Road Traffic Act makes it an offence for a driver of a vehicle to use a hand-held phone and for a person to use a hand-held phone whilst supervising a provisional licence holder. The Act covers any similar hand-held device or piece of electronic equipment (such as satellite navigation, laptops and two-way radios). It is still an offence even where the driver’s car is queuing in traffic or stopped at traffic lights. There are limited circumstances, however, when a driver can lawfully use their phone or similar device in a vehicle; if you are parked safely; or in extreme circumstances, where you need to call emergency services, and it would be impractical or unsafe for you to stop. It is no defence that the quality of your driving was not affected by using the hand-held device.
Where a mobile phone was in use at the time of an accident, charges of careless driving or dangerous driving, an extremely serious offence, are highly likely to be upheld; and mobile phone records have been used in court to prove that a defendant was using a phone illegally at the time of an accident.
Hands-Free Kits & the Law in England & Wales
It is permissible for drivers to use a mobile phone in conjunction with a ‘hands-free’ kit, provided that the phone can be safely operated without handling it. Not all hands-free kits are legal, however; hands-free kits that require you to take your hand off the wheel to operate them are not considered legal. You can be penalised for a driving offence if the police have reasonable belief you’ve been distracted by your electronic device.
Defences for Using a Mobile Whilst Driving in England & Wales
The police do make mistakes, which can lead to innocent people being falsely accused and prosecuted on a charge of driving whilst using a phone. The consequences of this can vary widely, from fines and increased insurance premiums to disqualification and, in extreme cases, imprisonment. It may have devastating consequences on an individual’s career where they use their car during the course of their work, as their licence could be suspended because of penalties incurred.
The defence of such a charge depends largely on the particular circumstances of the case, but it will usually be based on procedural flaws, aimed at identifying mistakes made by the police or prosecution, and substantive defences – where the solicitor will aim to show that the defendant’s behaviour was lawful. Expert evidence and records from mobile phone providers and other third party witnesses can also be used to create a strong defence or to weaken the prosecution’s arguments and evidence. With a highly skilled lawyer with expertise in the field on your side, this can mean your case won’t even reach the courts.
Mobile Phone & Driving Lawyers in Manchester, Birmingham, London
Our specialist road traffic team has a great deal of experience in mobile phone offence matters, and we are committed to looking at all of the facts surrounding your case in order to provide you with the best possible result. Tuckers Solicitors Road Traffic lawyer’s wealth of experience in this niche area of law ensures that our clients receive first class legal advice across the full spectrum of driving offences. Most importantly, we will treat you as a motorist, not as a criminal, when negotiating a path through the process of dealing with the police station and courts. Our lawyers are available 24 hours a day, providing immediate advice, representation and assistance during legal proceedings, ensuring the best interests of our clients. Please contact our Road Traffic and Driving Offences Department on 0808 169 5980 or email firstname.lastname@example.org