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Mobile phones and driving – know your facts

As the government contemplates extending the ban on using mobile phones while driving to hands-free devices, the latest research dramatically highlights just how many people are already breaking the current law.

A survey by the RAC published this year found that a quarter of drivers across all age groups - that's the equivalent of 10 million people - have confessed to illegally making or receiving calls whilst driving.

This rises to almost half, 47 per cent, of drivers between 25 and 44 with other alarming findings including:

  • More than a third of drivers between 25 and 34 admitting they send texts and emails and post on social media while driving;
  • Thirty per cent of 25 to 34-year-olds conceding they have used a phone to take photos, selfies or videos while driving;
  • An increase in illegal mobile phone use when stationary, in a traffic jam for instance, across all age groups including checking texts and emails, sending messages and taking photos.

What does the current law say?

Holding a mobile phone while driving is punishable by six penalty points and a £200 fine with more serious related offences, like dangerous driving or causing death by dangerous or careless driving, dealt with in court with much more severe penalties available.

Yet while the number of serious accidents where mobile phone use was a contributory factor has increased - there were 773 casualties, including 43 fatalities and 135 serious injuries in 2017 - enforcement action has fallen dramatically.

In England and Wales in 2017, there were 8,300 convictions for using a handheld mobile compared to 32,548 in 2010.

Hands-free device- dangerous false impression of safety

Now the government is to consider banning the use of hands-free devices following a report from the Commons Transport Select Committee which says that because their use while driving is still legal, there is a misleading impression that they are safe.

It has also called for the government to increase the penalties for using a mobile phone at the wheel as a 'good way to signal the seriousness of an offence'.

The campaigning road safety charity, Brake, supports a change in the law.

Director of campaigns, Joshua Harris, says: "Most drivers know that all phone use behind the wheel is dangerous, but we need the law to reflect this by banning the use of hands-free devices. The current law provides a dangerous false impression about the use of phones behind the wheel and must be changed.

"We also call on the government to invest in roads policing as a priority so that the police have the resources they need to ensure there is a true deterrent to the menace of mobile phone use behind the wheel."

Did you know….?

  • A 2016 university study found the risk of crashing whilst talking on a hands-free mobile is four times higher than when driving without distraction;
  • If you are involved in an accident and your telephone records show you were using your mobile at the time, even via voice activation, it could have serious implications;
  • If at any point while driving you hold your mobile phone, you are breaking the law so securing it in a phone cradle (or putting it out of reach) is vital;
  • You can only legally use your mobile as a sat nat if you do not hold it;
  • It's illegal to use a hand-held phone if you are stationary or in queuing traffic;
  • Holding your phone while driving to text or access the internet is against the law;
  • In a genuine emergency, where it's unsafe or impractical to stop, calling 999 or 112 is allowed,

Police advice is not to use a mobile phone at all, even hands-free, whilst driving.

Even if you aren't contravening mobile phone legislation, operating any device in a car including hands-free controls, a sat nav or car radio, could still mean you are committing an offence such as not being in proper control of your vehicle, careless or dangerous driving.

For more information, please contact any member of Wards Solicitors' specialist Accident and Injury team.

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