Norfolk and Suffolk police have launched a fresh crackdown on the use of mobile phones whilst driving. The new initiative involves the use of unmarked ‘spotter’ cars to identify and gather information and encouraging members of the public to report offenders. The aim of the campaign is to make using a mobile phone whist driving as socially unacceptable as drink driving.
As a part of this crackdown, Norfolk Police have launched a new online reporting tool to encourage motorists to submit footage of drivers using mobile phones behind the wheel. It is not only motorists who have been asked to submit such footage; cyclists and horse riders (who often wear helmet cameras) have been asked to submit footage they capture. The step comes after it was revealed that ‘dash-cam’ footage had led to 33 prosecutions and 15 warning letters being issued.
Of course, if you spot another driver using his or her phone, you must not pull out your phone and take a video or image, as in doing so you too would be contravening the law.
Brake, a road safety charity, claim that motorists’ reaction times are 50% slower when using a hands-free phone than a driver who is not on a phone, and a driver using any kind of phone is four times as likely to be in a collision that causes injuries. Moreover, one 2009 study claims that drivers who are messaging behind the wheel are 23 times more likely to cause a road traffic collision than an otherwise attentive driver.
In September 2016, it was reported that over 6,000 motorists in Norfolk & Suffolk had been caught using their mobile in the preceding 18 months.
Hand-held phones cannot be used whilst driving, even if you are stopped in traffic or at traffic lights. The only circumstance in which you can use your hand held phone whilst driving is if you need to call the emergency services (999/112) and it is unsafe to stop. Should you need to check your phone whilst on the move, you must park safely and turn off your engine.
Having a hands-free kit is no guarantee that you will not be breaking the law. It is an offence to drive without due care and attention, and with the use of phones in the spotlight, the use of a phone in an unsafe manner (even in a hands-free kit) is likely to draw unwanted attention.
Motorists caught using their phone whilst driving now face a fixed penalty, by way of six points on their licence and a £200 fine. This means that if you are classified as a ‘new driver’, having had your full licence for less than two years, it will only take one offence for your licence to be revoked. If your case goes to court, the maximum fine is £1,000, whilst HGV and bus drivers can face a fine of up to £2,500.
If you require advice on any of the issues raised above then please do not hesitate to contact a member of our Traffic Lawyers Team.