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Tuesday 18th April 2017

Don't Phone - Or Don't Drive

Nearly a third of all motorists admit they’ve done it. Yet it’s been against the law since 2003.

But our love affair with our mobile phone continues to flourish, even though we know it’s an offence to use it whilst driving.

The fine for using a hand-held phone or similar device has just risen for a third time to £200 in a bid to reduce the number of accidents caused by drivers being on the phone. The Department For Transport blames mobile phone use for 21 fatal accidents and 84 serious crashes in 2014, but says these are likely to be underestimated figures.

It seems nothing will deter many people from using their device. Nearly 8,000 drivers across England, Wales and Northern Ireland were caught using a mobile behind the wheel during just one week-long crackdown by police in November last year. Police dished out more than 40 fines per hour during the campaign, delivered hundreds of verbal warnings and identified 117 other distraction offences such as eating while driving.

High profile cases such as that of Tomasz Kroker, a lorry driver, jailed for ten years last year after killing a mother and three children while on his phone, still do not seem to deter drivers. The Court heard Kroker had signed an agreement with his employer just an hour before the crash, promising not to use his phone whilst driving.

Lisa McArthur of Rundlewalker’s Criminal Law Team, believes that until it becomes socially unacceptable to use a mobile whilst driving, offenders will carry on.

‘We see a steady trickle of clients who’ve been caught,’ she said. ‘This is a very serious offence with potentially fatal consequences. We foresee sentences getting tougher.’

Back in 2003, the fine for being caught driving whilst using a hand-held phone was just £30. That doubled to £60 in 2007 with three penalty points added. In 2013, the fine rose again to £100. But with no discernible reduction in the number of offences, the Department For Transport has now raised the fine to £200 plus six penalty points. This new tariff came into force on March 1st 2017.

Six penalty points will hit new drivers particularly hard. Their licences are automatically revoked when they accumulate six points.

While the penalties are going up, the rules remain the same. It’s illegal to use a hand-held phone or similar device while driving or riding a motorbike, even if you are stationary at traffic lights or in a queue. The same rule applies if you are supervising a learner driver.

In addition, the police can stop you if they think you are being distracted, even if your phone or sat nav is hands-free. Drivers may only use their phones to make emergency calls when it is unsafe or impractical to stop or if they are safely parked.

Looking ahead, transport ministers are in talks with car manufacturers and mobile companies about the development of technology that would prevent drivers making calls, texting or sending emails from a moving vehicle.

If you or a family member require legal advice on a driving related matter, please contact us. 01392 209 209.

Lisa McArthur: 01392 209211. lisa.mcarthur@rundlewalker.com

Julia Brassington: 01392 209207. julia.brassington@rundlewalker.com

Michaela Rose: 01392 209216. michaela.rose@rundlewalker.com