The temptation’s there. The screen lights up. You know someone has sent you a text or an email, or your phone’s ringing. You know you shouldn’t pick it up, but it can’t hurt to answer it, can it?
The simple truth is a split second lapse in concentration could result in an accident, severe driving penalties and injury or loss of life. Yet, every year thousands of drivers continue to use their mobile phones whilst driving.
In research carried out in 2014 on behalf of the Department for Transport, 1.6% of drivers were observed to be using their mobile phone in England and Scotland.
Using a sample of nearly 30,000 drivers, the study found that a higher percentage of drivers were found to have a mobile device in their hand device whilst driving, rather than driving with it to their ear.
This has a significant impact on your ability to react to conditions on the road.
A study carried out by the RAC Foundation found that reaction times are 35% slower when driving whilst texting, significantly higher than driving whilst at the legal alcohol limit.*
Drivers are so well versed in drinking and driving, yet there is clearly some work to be done about the effects of using your mobile phone whilst driving and the penalties involved.
Some interesting statistics from the study carried out in England and Wales:**
· 1.6% drivers were observed using their mobile phone
· 1.1% of drivers were observed with a mobile phone in their hand
· 0.4% of drivers were observed with a mobile phone to their ear
· 1.7% of men were observed using a mobile phone
· 1.4% of women were observed using a mobile phone
· 2.7% of van drivers were observed using a mobile phone
· 1.2% of lorry drivers were observed using a mobile phone
· 1.4% of car drivers were observed using a mobile phone
· 2.3% of drivers used their mobile phone in stationary traffic
The overall figures for the use of mobile phones across England and Scotland have changed very little since 2002, and certainly don’t show a consistent downward trend. In England, last year’s overall figures are comparable with 2003 and are higher than 2008.
In order to be charged with a mobile phone offence, you don’t have to have your phone to you ear, nor does the car need to be moving.
The law states that if the engine is turned on, and you are seen using a mobile device, you can be prosecuted.
It’s a common misconception that you can use your mobile phone whilst sat in traffic. As a general rule, if your engine is turned on, you are in control of your vehicle and therefore open to prosecution.
Just having you mobile phone in your hand is not an offence. Police would have to demonstrate that you were in fact transmitting data and attempting to communicate using.
Also, you are only allowed to use your mobile phone to dial 999 or 112 in an emergency if it’s unsafe or impractical to pull over.
The law also states that it isn’t just mobile phones, but any mobile communication device, such as tablets or laptop computers.
Typically, if caught using a hand held device you would receive a maximum £100 fine and 3 penalty points. In more extreme cases it could result in disqualification and £1,000-£2,500 fine.
In cases where your driving is significantly impaired or you have been involved in an accident you could be face with careless or dangerous driving charges, with much more severe penalties.
So whilst the temptation is there to answer that call, or respond to that text message, find somewhere safe to pull over, turn off your engine, and use your phone.
If you have been caught using a mobile device whilst driving a vehicle and you intend to fight the case it’s important that you get the right legal representation.
We specialise in motoring offences and could help you avoid or reduce the impact of penalties for using a mobile device whilst driving.
For a free consultation call us on 01484 437 400 and speak to a specialist motoring solicitor.