There’s been considerable press comment on the Government’s plan to double the penalties (both fines and points) at some point in 2017 for those caught using a mobile phone whilst driving. When the DoT started its consultation in January 2016, the plan was to increase the penalty for car drivers from 3 to 4 points, and increase the fixed penalty fine from 100 to 150, wth doubling of penalties only for HGV drivers. Such was the strength of public support for stiffer penalties – perhaps driven by a number of tragic cases in which phone use was implicated in fatal accidents – that the DoT has now said it will double the penalties for ALL drivers.
This means that you will be facing 6 points on your licence and a £200 fine for this offence from 2017.
If then you are successfully charged for a second offence, that will lead to a disqualification.
Prosecutions have fallen from over 120,000 a year to fewer than 30,000. It’s difficult to say whether that’s because of more widespread use of fully hands free phone kits in cars, less use of hand held phones by drivers, or even the suggestion that there’s been a cut in the number of traffic officers.
Here are some important points to consider if you’re facing a charge of using a mobile phone and are wondering if you may have a defence:
- Everyone talks about mobile phones – but any device that can send a message (subject to some very tight exceptions to cover authorised radio users, for example) is included
- You don’t have to be making a phone call or sending/receiving a text to be found guilty. Using any other function on the device can be enough, such as looking at a map, or even taking a video of what another driver on the road in front of you is doing.
- If an officer says they saw you with the device in your hand, an itemised bill showing that no call was made or received is not guaranteed to save you.
- If you have to do anything that involves touching the device or anything attached to it, to make or answer a call, then the device is NOT considered “hands free.” Using ear buds or a head set is a risk if you have answered a call using the phone itself, the phone need not even be in your hand.