10/10/2016

Phone rings whilst I am driving… can I answer?

A recent RAC Annual Report on Motoring suggests that the number of motorists illegally using mobile phones while at the wheel is escalating. According to their research 31% of motorists claimed that they used a handheld phone behind the wheel compared with only 8% in 2014. Additionally, with the advent of social media, the number of drivers’ texting, taking photographs and posting on social media has also steeply increased. Is there a culture of drivers that do not perceive that they will be caught for offences unless an automatic camera emerging catches them?

It is illegal to drive a car or ride a motorcycle using a handheld telephone for any purpose. This applies even if the vehicle is stationary at traffic lights or queuing in traffic. Furthermore, it is illegal to use a handheld phone or similar device when you are supervising a learner driver or rider.

The penalties for driving using a handheld telephone include: an automatic fixed penalty notice, three penalty points and £100 fine. The driver could also be taken to court, where the maximum fine is £1,000 in a car or motorbike and £2,500 in a bus or goods vehicle, and there is the possibility of being disqualified from driving. Aside from this, the other implications include a rise in insurance premiums and, if involved in an accident, your insurance provider may refuse to cover the costs. If you are involved in an accident, your mobile phone records may be used as evidence to prove that you were distracted at the time of the accident. This could lead to additional points on your driving licence, large fines and possibly a prison sentence.

Legally you are able to use hands-free phones and satellite navigation systems when you’re driving, however if you are seen by the Police and they perceive you to be distracted and not in control of the vehicle you can still be stopped and penalised. Using a hands free system is distracting and can affect the drivers’ hazard perception and reaction times.

Remember, if you get 6 or more penalty points within your first two years of passing your test you will lose your driving licence.

The only acceptable circumstances for using a handheld mobile phone is if you are safely parked with the engine switched off or if you need to call 999 as it is an emergency and it’s unsafe or impractical to stop the vehicle.

When in doubt, seek expert professional guidance, for more information contact the crime team at Beswicks Legal on 01782 205000 or enquiry@beswicks.com