Driving while using your mobile has been illegal since 2003. However, police and the justice system have often struggled to provide evidence that the driver has committed the offense. To be committed it has to be proven that firstly, the driver was holding the phone. Then secondly, they were using it to perform an interactive communication function for instance making a phone call or sending a text. On the contrary to a “standalone” function such as taking a photo or recording a video.
On behalf of the Department for Transport (DfT), Ipsos MORI conducted some research on the use of mobile phones whilst driving. It found that 60% of individuals stated the use of mobile phones was a habit. This resulted in them using it whilst driving due to this habitual behaviour rather than for a certain reason. Individuals reported (12%) they had an innate “need” to check their phone for notifications or calls. This was in order to respond fast and to fill the journey time.
The majority of participants stated they only use their phones while the vehicle was stationary either at a traffic light or in traffic. Tasks completed included making or receiving calls (29%), reading a message (34%), typing a message (23%), and searching for music (25%). However, 14% believed that using their phones did not distract them from their surroundings.
Grant Shapps from Transport Secretary stated, “Too many deaths and injuries occur while mobile phones are being held. By making it easier to prosecute people illegally using their phones at the wheel, we are ensuring the law is brought into the 21st century while further protecting all road users. While our roads remain among the safest in the world, we will continue working tirelessly to make them safer, including through our award-winning THINK! the campaign, which challenges social norms among high-risk drivers.”
Subsequent to this research the DfT carried out a public consultation. This involved the notion of changing the mobile law to include standalone use as well as interactive communication. Of the 423 participants, 81% supported the move and 43% stated it should be illegal to simply pick up your phone. As a result, the government has amended the UK driving law, believing all use of mobile phones whilst driving is reckless and dangerous.
Mary Williams OBE, Chief Executive of Brake from the road safety charity, comments “Driver distraction can be deadly and using a hand-held phone at the wheel is never worth the risk. This important road safety decision by the government, coinciding with Road Safety Week, is very welcomed. This news is particularly welcomed by families suffering bereavement and catastrophic injury due to drivers being distracted by phones. The theme for Road Safety Week is road safety heroes – we can all be road safety heroes by giving driving our full attention.”
How Has The Driving Law Changed?
It is now illegal to use your phone whilst driving to text, call, take photos or videos, scroll through playlists, or play games. Furthermore, this includes when a driver is stationary whether that be in traffic, waiting at a port, or by traffic lights. Also, includes supervising a learner driver. These changes not only improve road safety but also aid the police to prosecute people breaking the law.
There are some slight exceptions to this for instance when parked, to call 999 and when using your mobile as a sat-nav. This is as long as it is in a secure cradle not restricting the driver’s view. Moreover, a driver is also able to make payments via card readers for drive-through food or tolls. Lastly, showing pre-paid purchases such as tickets they may be saved on their device.
If an individual breaks the law, they will be fined £200 along with 6 points on their license. If the driver has passed their test within the last 2 years, if caught, they will lose their license. For HGV drivers, driving is their living therefore, having a clean license is paramount to their day-to-day lives.
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