You know the problem. You’re driving along quite happily, singing along to the radio or your ipod filled with Olly Murs and JLS tunes, when your phone rings. What do you do?
Answer it straight away? It could be important. The office? Home? Mum? An offer to upgrade your phone?
No you don’t. You know that it is an offence to use a mobile phone whilst driving. Even just picking up the phone to say ‘I’m driving, I’ll call you back’ is illegal. In fact the law states that “As a driver, you must not use a hand held mobile communication device to either text, call, or carry out any other activity that requires connectivity, such as web surfing. If you break these rules and are found to have been doing so, then you are at risk of being given an automatic fine - and this includes using a mobile device while driving - even if you are sat still in a traffic jam or at lights - it is still classed as a specific offence, which will lead to automatic fine and points on your licence.”
Ah. But my phone is hands-free, so I’ll answer it and start talking.
Technically that is OK, but if a police officer deems that your driving is falling below the expected standard whilst you are gabbing away, then you may find yourself charged with careless or dangerous driving, which can lead to a fine, points (depending on the severity of the offence, the circumstances surrounding it and the decision of a judge who may or may not have had a bad day), and worst case scenario - disqualification and even a spell in prison.
So, it’s best that you pull over (when safe to do so) and answer your phone.
Have you turned the engine off? No, you haven’t because you’re just sat at the side of the road, parked up, or in a lay-by, chatting away on your mobile.
WRONG! WRONG! WRONG!
It is actually an offence to use a mobile phone whilst a vehicle is stationary in a lay-by or at the side of the road with the engine running, and the important point to note here is 'with the engine running'.
Many people think that 'driving' refers to actually moving along the road in your car – and most of the time, this is absolutely correct. However, if you are sat in the driver's seat of a vehicle with the engine running, then you are technically in charge of that vehicle, so the penalties that apply to using a hand held mobile device while 'driving', do apply to you. (Think drink-driving if that helps!)
So the moral of the story is clear - if you pull over, switch your engine OFF before you make or take that call. Then you'll be in the clear.
After all, you don’t really want to incur the fixed penalty for using a mobile phone while driving is £60 which rises up to £1000 should the case end up in court.
And you don’t really want the current points endorsement which is 3, although it can be raised if the police feel that you were driving dangerously due to using the device.
And you don’t really want to run the risk of ending up in an accident as a result, where it is entirely possible that your insurance company will not pay out to fix any damage to your car, you could lose your no-claims bonus and your premiums could increase.
These rules all relate to what is called a 'Hand Held Communication Device'. This is to cover anything that must at some point be held in your hand while you are making or receiving a voice call or other form of communication. This includes PDAs that can be used to download emails, text messages, picture messages etc .
A lot of people claim that they are really careful whilst using their phones and ‘concentrate more’ when using them whilst driving. But studies have shown that a driver’s reaction can be up to 50% slower than usual and the risk of crashing is increased by 4 times when they are using a mobile phone; in fact 30% worse than that of a driver who was over the drink driving limit.
If you are unlucky enough to end up 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 further points on your licence, large fines and in some cases, even a prison sentence.
Is that Ok? Or shall I ring you later about it on your way home?