Most motorists are aware that using your mobile phone while driving is an offence, in fact it’s been an offence since December 1st 2003. Despite this, there are still common misconceptions that motorists regularly fall foul of. Initially, the definition of what constitutes an offence seems simple; you are on the phone and you are driving, but it’s not that simple…. 

The Road Vehicles (Construction and Use) (Amendment) (No. 4) Regulations 2003 prohibits motorists using a hand-held mobile phone, or similar device, while driving. It also made it an offence to use a hand-held mobile phone while supervising a driver who only has a provisional licence.

What constitutes ‘using’ a mobile phone is almost impossible to define, however if you have the phone in your hand and are rejecting a call, or even picking up the phone and glancing at a text could be considered to be ‘using’ it – you are distracted, you’ve taken your eyes off the road and you have created a potentially dangerous situation. A bench of magistrates is unlikely to be impressed.

Remember that the act says ‘mobile phone or similar device’ – it doesn’t have to be a mobile phone … and even if you successfully argue that it isn’t, the police still have the option of alternative offences such as  ‘not being in proper control’ of your vehicle, driving without due care or dangerous driving, depending on the circumstances.  

Finally, you are said to be ‘driving’ your vehicle even if you are stationary in a queue of traffic.. and yes, this includes texting/emailing/dialling or answering a call at red traffic lights .. we have all noticed the driver adjacent or in front who apparently has something fascinating in their lap ….

On a serious note, a moment’s inattention can have devastating consequences. Official government figures show that mobile phone-related car crashes killed 67 people between 2012-14.

Currently, if you are stopped using your mobile phone while driving, you will receive 3 penalty points and a £100 fine if you are given a fixed penalty notice – this could be more (up to £1000) if the case proceeds to court and you could be disqualified from driving. 

From 1st March 2017, this will increase to 6 penalty points and £200 fixed penalty fine with greater penalties possible if the case proceeds to court, as before. To put this into perspective, if you are convicted twice within 3 years, you could be disqualified from driving for a minimum of 6 months under the ‘totting up provisions’ unless you can persuade a court that disqualification will cause you exceptional hardship.

Police are likely to continue to target drivers using mobile phones while driving. Some prosecutions are brought as a result of traffic cameras, but some are also brought as result of direct witness evidence. Inevitably, evidence can be misinterpreted on occasion and will have to be challenged in court.

Should this happen, we can help. Beecham Peacock’s Crime Department has successfully dealt with a wide spectrum of road traffic prosecutions from minor infractions to those involving serious injury and loss of life.

We provide quick, clear expert advice. We know that losing your licence can have a devastating impact on you and those who depend on you.

Finally, if following any incident or accident the police indicate that they want you to attend the police station to interview you – even if this is ‘voluntary’ and by appointment, please remember to exercise you right to FREE LEGAL REPRESENTATION – if you are being interviewed at a police station under caution, we can attend and represent you free of charge. We offer a 24 hour police station representation service – outside office hours, please call 0776 837 6039 or call the office to arrange representation – speak to us – we can help!

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