Written by: Griffiths & Armour on: 21 Apr 2022
New laws on using mobile phones whilst driving
Why has a change in the law been introduced by the Government?
Since 2003 it has been illegal to make a phone call (other than in an emergency situation) or text using a mobile phone while driving. However, a loophole in the law existed which was highlighted in a 2019 court case in which a driver who was filming a nearby road accident while at the wheel was found not guilty because they were not using a hand-held mobile phone for ‘interactive communication’. The judge said they were therefore out of the scope of the offence charge. This meant that undertaking such activities as taking a photo or video, fell outside of the legislation.
According to the Department for Transport statistics and to illustrate the danger that exists, in the following year (2020), 17 people were killed, 114 people were seriously injured, and 385 were slightly injured in road traffic accidents in the UK which involved a driver proven to be using a mobile phone.
The new rules make the sending, receiving and/or uploading of photos or videos on a phone while behind the wheel, an illegal action. Handling your phone to check the time is also prohibited. This also includes when the vehicle is stationary, including whilst waiting at traffic lights or in a traffic jam.
Are there any scenarios that allow for a driver to use a mobile phone?
Drivers are still permitted to use a hands-free device such as a sat-nav, or to use a sat-nav on a mobile phone while driving, but it must be secured to the windscreen or dashboard and it must not block the drivers view. That said, it is highly recommended that the practice of programming your mobile phone whilst using it as a sat-nav is done whilst the vehicle is parked up and stationary. Nonetheless, if you are stopped by the police and they consider the standard of your driving to be impaired or that you are not in total control of your vehicle at the time of using your sat-nav or mobile, you can be charged with careless driving.
What are the penalties for drivers?
Anyone caught using a hand-held device while driving will face a £200 fixed penalty notice and six points on their licence. This also means an instant ban for HGV drivers or for motorists that passed their test in the past two years. HGV drivers also face a maximum fine of £2,500 for a mobile phone offence.
My business employs a fleet of drivers, how can I check their awareness of safe driving and in particular, their knowledge of the new rules?
At Griffiths & Armour, we offer all clients full access to our recently launched new online Driver Assessment tool which is part of our RMworks client risk management platform. If you are a client that would like access to this facility, please get in touch with your usual point of contact who can arrange this for you. If you are not a client but would like to know more, please contact Cath Swindells from our Risk management team below.