You might have seen in the news that the law has been updated when it comes to using a mobile phone while driving. Since 2003 it has actually been against the law to even touch your phone while driving, whether that is to make a call, respond to a message or use GPS. This includes using a handsfree set, using your mobile to follow a map or “just reading a text” without responding. Even if you are stationary, queueing in traffic or going through a drive-thru restaurant, it is still against the law to touch your phone.
The only time you should be touching your phone while in your vehicle is if you are safely parked – or if you need to call 999 and it’s not safe to stop.
Fixed penalty fine
When this law was first introduced, there was a fixed penalty of £30, but when this didn’t seem to deter people from using their mobiles, it was increased to £60 in 2007. In 2013 it was raised to £100 and with the new legislation this year, the fixed penalty has now been doubled to £200.
As well as this, you could now go to court where you could find yourself disqualified from driving and get a maximum fine of £1,000. Those driving a bus or goods vehicle could get a maximum fine of £2,500.
Points on your licence
As well as a fixed penalty fine and the threat of going to court, you will also get points on your licence. Previously, drivers caught using their mobiles received 3 penalty points – but under this year’s new legislation this has been increased to 6 penalty points.
This means that if you’re a new driver, a conviction could see your licence being revoked – and any driver building up 12 or more points in a 3-year period can be disqualified from driving.
There used to be a rule in certain areas whereby drivers caught using a mobile phone could avoid points by taking a remedial driving course – but ministers believe this has not been effective and now anyone caught using their mobile while driving will receive penalty points.
This is all good news; tighter laws will only serve to make our roads safer, and hopefully to lower accident rates. Of course, the safest option when it comes to using a mobile phone while driving is to pull over safely to the side of the road, make your call or answer your message, and then put your phone away and continue with your journey.
That said, many of our customers work in logistics and transport, where they need to make urgent calls while on the road, and stopping will mean delayed deliveries or arrivals for their customers. Sometimes they just need to make a quick call to say “I’ll be with you in 5 minutes” or “sorry for the delay; I’m stuck in traffic.” This is the sort of thing customers will expect from most companies and it can damage your customer service record and reputation if you don’t keep customers updated.
So what can you do?
The second safest option (other than parking up to make a call) is to have a hands-free car kit installed in your vehicle. This includes a microphone placed close to the driver and a button within easy reach of the steering wheel so that you can quickly make or respond to a call when you need to.
It is not illegal to use a hands-free car kit where you don’t actually touch your phone – for example, one where you answer the phone by tapping a button on the dash or steering column – but if the police see you and think you’re distracted, you can still be stopped and penalised.
It is important to remember that any longer call that requires an in-depth conversation should still be taken while not driving. If you think your conversation may distract you from the road – even slightly – you should always pull over before continuing. For quick updates though, a hands-free car kit is the answer that can save you time as well as money and penalty points.
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