One Year on from New Tougher Penalties for Phone use – How are we doing?
On 1 March last year tough new penalties for mobile phone use were introduced doubling the penalty to 6 penalty points and a £200 fine. As a nation we now have some of the highest fines in Europe associated with mobile phone use at the wheel.
Although stats for mobile phone use suggest figures have fallen, an undeterred 26,000 motorists have been caught using a handheld mobile phone while driving in the 12 months that have followed the enforcement of these harsher penalties. That’s at least 156,000 penalty points imposed just for mobile phone use.
According to government statistics, among these are 500 new drivers within their first 2 years of passing their test who have had their licences revoked for using their phone behind the wheel. Statistics based on a targeted check suggest that on average 74% of phone users were male.
Although it seems the penalties for holding and using a mobile phone while driving are a real deterrent and awareness of the associated dangers of using a device behind the wheel has increased it is clear some motorists are still not only putting their own lives at risk, but the lives of others.
National Lead for Roads Policing, Chief Constable Anthony Bangham commented on this, stating:
“In the year since the new legislation was introduced, we have started to see changes in driver behaviour as the public begin to understand the impact that driving whilst using a mobile phone can have. However, there are still far too many people underestimating the risk that they take when using their mobile phone at the wheel.”
“It is not just about the penalty points or the fine, it is about putting safety first and keeping your eyes on the road so you don’t risk hurting or killing an innocent person.”
RAC road safety added:
“Regardless of the efforts by government, the police and road safety campaigners, the decision to pick up a handheld phone – or leave it alone – while driving remains a personal choice that each driver makes. While the temptation may be strong, drivers need to really ask themselves what is so important that they must risk their life, and the lives of others, by using a handheld mobile phone at the wheel.”
Let’s take this on and make 2018 a year that we see these stats fall even more. To do our bit, we have put together some quick guidance as to the dos and don’ts of mobile phone use:-
•Avoid ever having your phone in your hand or on your lap whilst driving as this will always put you at risk of being pulled over by the police and charged with an offence. Ultimately, even if you are not in the wrong and can prove this, being pulled over can be inconvenient and time consuming so why risk it?
•Get yourself a dashboard mount for your phone. Place your phone in the cradle before setting off and use the device for its sat-nav function, as a music player or to take calls. As long as these functions do not cause you to be distracted and you do not attempt to operate the device by hand whilst driving then use in this way is not illegal.
•Park up in a safe place if you are running late or need to take an urgent call, but do not do this whilst stuck in traffic or at a red light. Make sure your engine is off and the car is secured before picking up your phone.
•Get yourself an app. Apps such as “LifeSaver” block calls and texts from coming in whilst your vehicle is in motion. If you are likely to shift your attention from the road when you see your phone light up then it might be a good idea to look into downloading something like this.
•Under no circumstances should you pick your phone up or engage with it in any way, including social media use, texting, directions or music while your engine is on or your vehicle is on the road. Using your phone in any one of these ways is illegal.
•Don’t assume you will get away with using your phone if there are no police around. Plain clothed officers are on the lookout and many charges are bought against offenders in this way, further with the rise in dash cam prosecutions there are no end of ways that a mobile phone charge can be bought against an offending driver.
•Don’t assume that police need photographic evidence of the phone use to make a charge stick. A police officer’s witness statement will be sufficient to prosecute an offence.
•Never allow yourself to become distracted by hands-free use of a mobile phone. This itself is not only dangerous but also can give rise to an offence. Although hands-free systems are the safest way to take a call whilst driving they are not without risk. Be cautious of being over reliant on hands-free devices.