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Mobile Misuse – The Facts About Using Your Mobile Phone While Driving

Kwik Fit | Thursday 6th October 2016 11:52am

man using phone while driving

Few would argue that smartphones have become part of our everyday life and less still would admit they could now live without their trusty mobile. From getting the latest news, communicating with friends, listening to music and even controlling the appliances in the home, there really is an app for everything. Just take a look around you when you walk along the street, it’s become the norm to see people with their heads buried in their screens, unaware of what is going on around them.  We’ve become so inseparable from our phones that it’s no wonder that mobile phone use while driving is increasingly becoming a big problem and campaigners are keen to raise awareness of the dangers.

If you’ve ever considered answering that call or replying to a text while driving your car, or you already actively use your mobile while driving, here are the facts as to why you should leave that handset in your pocket.

The research

The use of mobile phones while driving has become a hot topic lately and there is plenty of eye-opening research to discourage drivers from using their phones. However, the RAC recently found that drivers (particularly young drivers) are increasingly using their phones while driving with an estimated 11 million drivers breaking the law by doing so. 20% of the 1,700 people asked thought it was ok to check their phone while driving whereas only 14% said it was acceptable in the same survey in 2014.

In 2014, 24 people lost their lives on UK roads as a result of mobile phone use but it is thought that thousands more non-fatal accidents occurred because the driver was using their phone. It’s difficult to put an accurate figure on the number of accidents caused as a direct result of mobile phone use as many cases are recorded as an ‘in-vehicle distraction’. However, the road safety campaign Think! claims that studies have shown that phones are a major distraction and drivers using mobile phones are slower at recognising and reacting to hazards. Even careful drivers can have a split-second lapse in concentration when a call or text comes in that could be the difference between stopping safely and a crash.

Meanwhile across the pond...

Researchers in America studied dash-cam footage of 2,200 accidents  involving young drivers aged 17-19 and found that as many as 1 in every 8 accidents were caused by the driver losing concentration because they were using their phone.

The current law and proposed changes

If you were caught by the police using a hand-held mobile phone while driving today you’ll face an immediate fine of £100 and have 3 points added to your licence. The car doesn’t have to be moving either - the same rules apply if you are in a queue of traffic, joining a road  or stopped at traffic lights or a crossing.

In extreme cases were the police believe gross negligence is shown, your case could go to court where the maximum fine is £1,000 and disqualification from driving. This increases to £2,500 for drivers of larger vehicles including heavy good vehicles. 

However, in response to the growing number of mobile phone related incidents on the road, Transport Secretary Chris Grayling announced this month proposals to double the on the spot fine to £200 and increase the number of points on the licence to 6.

No second chances for young drivers...

The proposed changes purposely target young drivers who are the most likely to use their mobile while behind the wheel and could see them lose their licence for a single offence.

The law already states that in the first two years after passing your driving test, if you amass 6 or more penalty points you licence will be revoked. That means under the new proposals, which could come into effect as early as next year, young drivers will lose their licence if they are caught using their mobile phone just once – no ifs, no buts, no second chances.

More than just a phone

Smartphones are so much more than just phones in 2016 that the name itself is almost misleading. Most smartphone users spend far less time using the ‘phone’ features of their device to make calls than they do using text, social media and other apps to communicate. But herein lies the problem – many phone users believe it is more acceptable to read a text or send a message while driving than it is to take a call, as if the illegal act is putting your phone to your ear. In other words there’s a false belief that as long as you don’t use your phone as a ‘phone’, you’re ok. RAC’s survey found that only 14% of their respondents said they would take a quick call yet this increased to 20% when asked if they would check Facebook or another social media site. If you want to avoid getting into trouble with the law, you shouldn’t be picking up that phone at all.

Pokemon No...

It’s not just texting and messaging that pose a problem, mobile gaming has become big business. Recent releases such as the popular but controversial Pokemon Go game, which sees players using geo-location services and augmented reality to track and catch ‘pocket monsters’, is a real cause for concern for the police and road safety organisations alike following a number of road accidents where the driver responsible was playing the game. The Journal for the American Medical Association recently carried out a study that found apps like Pokemon Go to be too distracting and have caused an estimated 110,000 road accidents.

Hands-free facts

You can use your mobile phone while driving as long as you are using a hands-free kit. However, you should approach with caution. The law states that if the police think you’re distracted and not in control of your vehicle you could still get stopped or penalised, even when using a hands-free kit.

So with the phone mounted on the dashboard you can make a call via Bluetooth for example, but if you have to look at and touch the screen for an extended period of time i.e. to find a contact in your address book, you run the risk of being pulled over. The same rules apply to sat-navs – their in-car usage is generally acceptable but if the police catch you reprogramming a sat-nav while on the move and believe you are distracted, you will be penalised.

Advice for drivers

The advice is simple. While behind the wheel don’t look at your phone under any circumstances, no matter how tempting it may be. The only exception allowed by law is to make an emergency call to 999 or 112. If you absolutely need to use your handset, make sure you pull over somewhere safe before accessing your phone.


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