Using the mobile phone while driving is a risky business, yet many drivers seem unable to resist a sneaky peek at a text while stopped at traffic lights, while others go the whole hog and merrily chat away on their phone while steering with one hand.
Of course, in most normal circumstances, steering with one hand will be ok for a few minutes at least, but what if? What if a car veers in front of you, a child runs into the road, or traffic suddenly comes to a standstill and you are 1) distracted and 2) not in complete control of your car? The consequences, as we know, can be fatal.
2017 sees a range of new car laws being put in place, the most significant of which relates directly to the use of handheld phones while at the wheel of a car. Yes, that’s right. At the wheel. You may be stationary in gridlocked traffic, you may have the handbrake on. You may just be a passenger supervising a learner driver, but if you are using your handheld device while in charge of the car, you could face a ban and a fine.
From March 1st this year, drivers who are caught using their mobile while at the wheel will receive an instant 6 penalty points and £200 fine. You could also be taken to court, where you could be banned from driving, and be subject to a fine of up to £1,000, or £2,500 for lorry and bus drivers. The law is toughest on new drivers – people who passed their test in the last two years will instantly have their licence revoked.
So When Can You Use Your Phone?
You can use your phone IF you have your phone set up in a manner that means you don’t need to touch it, such as:
- You have a Bluetooth headset
- You have voice command
- You have a dashboard phone holder
- Your phone is connected to your car’s audio.
Even if your phone is hands-free, it is important that you stay focused on driving and are not distracted; driving without paying full attention to the road is still an offence.
There are, of course, instances when you can use your phone while at the wheel or in charge of a vehicle. These are:
- When you are parked safely (i.e. not on double yellow lines, not obstructing any other vehicles or walkway etc.)
- If you need to call 999 and it is not possible for you to pull over safely.
If your phone rings when you are in charge of a vehicle, wait until you are able to pull over safely. Even better, wait until you get to your destination – after all, no call, text, or social media notification is worth risking lives, is it?
If you are unsure of driving laws or required to re-sit your practical or theory tests as the result of a driving ban, get in touch with a reliable driving instructor to help keep you, and other road users, safe.