When your phone rings whilst driving, there is enormous temptation to answer it, but you need to consider your options. The simple rule is this: if you're driving with your phone in your hand, you risk tough penalties. If your phone is in a cradle, therefore hands free, you're legel, to a certain extent. There are exceptions to that rule. Read on for the full advice.
Using a mobile phone
Hands-free kits are ever more popular and go a long way to minimising the clear danger of using a mobile whilst driving. Even so, you simply have to keep your mind on the road, rather than the conversation.
In 2017, the penalty for using a hand held mobile phone or any communicative device whilst in charge of a motor vehicle increased from a £100 fine to a £200 fine and from 3 points on your licence to 6 points. Anyone who is caught a second time could potentially face a £1,000 fine and six-month ban from driving. These penalties apply in England, Wales and Scotland.
Further to this, if you are penalised within two years of passing your test, your licence automatically reverts back to a provisional licence, meaning you will have to retake your driving test. This will also seriously impact on your insurance premiums.
What if it's in a cradle?
If your device is sat in a cradle and you need to accept a call or text, skip a music track or touch the phone's satnav application etc etc, you may do so as this is classed as hands free, and the offence outlined above relates to holding the device in your hand whilst driving. However, you are permitted only minimal contact with your device, even in a cradle. Minimal contact should be thought of in the same way as you would retune the radio, adjust the heating or touch a sat-nav (on that topic, you are allowed to use your phone as a satnav in a cradle although if you have to enter a new address, pull over and switch your engine off).
If you are seen to be distracted by constantly touching your phone whilst in charge of your vehicle, for example, resetting the map coordinates, persistently scrolling through music tracks, texting or using social media, you could be charged with a penalty of driving without due care or attention.
Also, don't be fooled into thinking you're ok to touch your phone whilst sat in queuing traffic. You are not. Even in its cradle, you should once again only use minimal contact, and if you pick it up and use it as a handheld device, then that'll be 6 points and a £200 fine. Remember: penalties can be enforced whilst your engine is on. You are classed as being in charge of your vehicle whilst your engine is on so if you absolutely must use your phone, pull over when safe to do so, turn your engine off and make your call, send your text, Tweet or update your status.
Lastly, the cradle. It must not interfere with your view of the road. It should be out of the 'swept area'. This is the area which your windscreen wipers operate in. If you're driving with a device that impedes your view this is a distraction and an officer may stop you.
Streaming and driving
We’ve advised you about the penalties you risk facing if you make or receive a phonecall, send or receive a text, update social media and even simply hold your phone in your hand whilst driving.
Our advice to people has been to either put your phone away or, if you wish to have it available for hands free calls or to make minimal contact with it, have it in a cradle.
However, having the phone in a cradle is unfortunately, to some people, a temptation to film themselves at the wheel, whether it’s to moan about the traffic, muse about their day, or belt out a tune.
Apps such as Snapchat, Instagram and Facebook can then encourage drivers to send their videos and photos to their mates.
But filming yourself while driving – or using your phone for anything at all, beyond the realms of minimal contact (minimal contact in this case being the equivalent of using it in the same way as you would retune your radio or adjust the heating etc) – means you are massively distracted, and distracted driving can be fatal.
Our message is ‘don’t stream and drive’. Don’t do a Facebook Live, don’t send a Snapchat video, don’t knock together a quick Instagram story of your drive home.
Our hard-hitting video features an actress, and the collision and aftermath was mocked up. But it demonstrates that by not concentrating on the road ahead, you risk not only your own life, but the lives of others.
The video was produced in 2017, but the message is fresh. We want to raise awareness of the dangers of using a phone at the wheel.
Our message is simple: keep your eyes on the road and stay safe.