It is estimated 52% of drivers believe the current penalties for using a hand-held phone when behind the wheel are not severe enough, according to new research conducted by the RAC.
It is illegal by virtue of Section 41D of the Road Traffic Act 1988 to use a mobile phone when driving or while supervising the driving of a motor vehicle – this also applies to when one is stopped in traffic or at traffic lights. Section 110 of the Road Vehicles (Construction and Use) Regulations 1986 as amended makes it an offence to drive or cause or permit or supervise any other person to drive, a motor vehicle while using a hand-held mobile phone.
The Regulations define ‘hand-held’ as: held at some point during the course of making or receiving a call or performing any other interactive communication function. The Regulations makes the same actions as above illegal for the use of “a device, other than a two-way radio, which performs an interactive communication function by transmitting and receiving data”.
An automatic fixed penalty notice of £100 together with a penalty point endorsement on the driving licence of the individual concerned may be awarded (at the discretion of the police) if one is caught committing the above offence(s). However, if summary proceedings are initiated in the Magistrates Court, and an individual is convicted, the relevant guidelines suggest the imposition of 3 penalty points on one’s licence and a Level 3 fine (£1,000) – the starting point for sentencing on summary conviction being a Band A fine (between 25-75% of the offender’s relevant weekly income). On conviction, the individual concerned is also ordinarily required to pay the prosecution’s costs and a victim surcharge.
The only times when it is legal for a driver to use a mobile phone in a vehicle is where either the driver is safely parked, or it is necessary to call 999 or 112 in a genuine emergency and where it is unsafe or impractical to stop.
While it is legal to use hands-free phones, ‘Sat Navs’ and 2-way radios when driving, the police can still stop the vehicle if they believe the driver is distracted and not in control of the vehicle. The Highway Code at Rule 149 and 150 advises not using any telephone at all so as to avoid distraction. It should also be borne in mind that in cases of the offence of careless driving, a factor indicating higher culpability which the Magistrates will consider when sentencing is if the offender was “Carrying out other tasks while driving” – this could include the use of mobile phone, whether hand-held or not.
Think twice about taking pictures in your vehicle. The BBC recently reported that a North Wales Police officer has been investigated for allegedly taking a selfie whilst driving, leading to a traffic offence report.