On 1 March, the Government doubled the penalties for using a hand-held mobile phone while driving to six penalty points and a £200 fine. Vocational drivers may have their entitlements suspended by the Traffic Commissioner and newly-qualified drivers will automatically lose their licence under the points system.
Drivers who use mobile phones are now also liable to prosecution for the more serious offences of careless or dangerous driving as well, if it can be proved that an offence was caused by failing to have proper control of the vehicle due to distraction. Penalties for careless and dangerous driving are substantially higher than for the specific mobile phone offence.
Holding the phone in any way – for example, cradled between chin and shoulder or held between the knees – is also an offence. The Department for Transport's Think! Campaign, which was launched to coincide with the increased penalties, suggested that phones should be stored in the glove box while driving to prevent distraction.
The Freight Transport Association’s advice is as follows:
• Keep it out of reach! Using a mobile phone while driving now carries 6 penalty points and £200 fine.
• Text, Facebook, email, streaming - using a mobile phone for any reason while driving is against the law.
• If it's in your hand, it's illegal! Using a mobile phone while driving could cost you your licence.
• Using a mobile phone while driving carries six penalty points & could threaten your job - don't risk it!
Using a mobile phone with a hands-free kit can also be an offence if the driver is distracted or does not have proper control of the vehicle. The penalty is the same – six points and a £200 fine – so employers should carefully consider whether their staff should be expected to take calls on the move. Employers, managers, colleagues and callers may be legally implicated when a driver uses a mobile phone, because causing, permitting aiding or abetting the infringement is also an offence.