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Mobile Phones and Driving

By: Tracy Wilkinson - Updated: 7 Nov 2013 | comments*Discuss
Mobile Phones Driving Legislation

It's now two and a half years since legislation was introduced that banned the use of hand-held mobile phones whilst driving. But it seems that many people don't understand the law, and are still putting themselves at risk.

What is the Law?

Since the law came into effect on December 1, 2003, the punishment for being caught out breaking this law whilst driving a car is a £30 fixed penalty, or up to £1000 should the incident go to court. Drivers of goods vehicles, buses and coaches can be fined up to £2,500.

The law says that you cannot operate a hand held phone or similar device while driving. If you need to hold the device to make or receive a call, or perform an interactive communication function, which includes (but is not limited to) sending and receiving of spoken or written messages, sending or receiving still or moving images and providing access to the internet, then it is classified as a hand-held device.

So in a nutshell: If your mobile phone or device needs to be held to transmit or receive data or voice calls, then you can't use it while driving.

So I Can't Use My Phone at all in The Car?

Yes you can - there is a legal way to get around the legislation. As the law states that the device cannot be held, using a hands-free kit allows the driver to communicate using their mobile phones while driving, and stay within the law. You are allowed to push buttons on a phone while it is in a cradle or on the steering wheel, as the law simply dictates that you must not hold the phone.

Can I Use my PDA or Sat Nav?

The answer is yes - as long as you don't have to hold it. It's also worth noting that the legislation doesn't count unless your device has interactive communication functions - so if you're just changing song on your iPod, you should be ok.

So it's Safe and Legal to Use my Mobile if I Have a Hands Free Kit?

This doesn't mean it's still completely safe though. Remember not to be distracted by your phone or device or should an incident occur, you may find yourself up on careless or even dangerous driving charges, regardless of whether you were using hands-free equipment or not.

If I Haven't Got Hands Free - Must I Switch My Mobile Off in The Car?

Contrary to popular belief, the law does not demand that your mobile phone is switched off when travelling in a vehicle. Passengers are of course allowed to use mobiles and as long as the driver is safely parked, or using a hands free kit, then there should be no problems at all and you can chat away to your hearts content.

So What Happens if You Get Stuck in a Traffic Jam?

Strictly speaking, the law applies while driving. Driving does, in theory, include times when the driver is stopped at traffic lights or during traffic jams that might occur during a typical journey. However if your engine is switched off, the law no longer applies.

In particularly bad traffic jams, such as on a motorway, it is unlikely that someone would be prosecuted for making a quick call on a non-hands free mobile device - as long as it was clear that they had turned off their engine and were therefore not driving.

However it would be best not to use the phone at all while in the jam, as if you were charged, you may find it difficult to prove that the engine was switched off when you made the call. Also be aware that you could still be charged with an offence if you stop your car somewhere that is not safe, to make a phone call.

What if it is an Emergency?

There is an exception in place in case you find yourself in an emergency situation. You are allowed to call 999 (or 112) in a genuine emergency where it is impractical or unsafe to stop.

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What if i check time while i'm driving?
Fahri - 7-Nov-13 @ 9:17 PM
what mobile phone call is that important,in that time you could either kill someone or yourself and passengers. or both.
SNOWDROP - 18-Jun-13 @ 2:09 PM
Suggestion - The Law should include that if caught using a mobile phone whilst driving, the personbe fined and the phone confiscated for at least 24 hours. Surely this would have more of an impact comparedto just being fined.
Phoney - 18-Jul-12 @ 6:48 AM
If you get an automatic ban along with your fine for being over the drink - drive limit , why not an automatic ban for people caught using an "in hand" mobile phone whilst driving. Tests appear to be showing that your risk factor is Higher than being slightly over the limit. A few 12 month bans and people might finally get the message that Facebook CAN wait.
Cobman - 2-Mar-12 @ 6:55 PM
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