Mobile Phones and Driving
Since 2003 it has been a specific offence to operate a hand-held mobile phone while driving. Currently the penalty for anyone caught doing so is 3 points on your licence and a minimum fine of £100.
However, if your case goes to court you may face disqualification from driving and a fine of up to £1,000. Drivers of buses or goods vehicles can be fined up to £2,500.
The regulations apply equally to drivers of all types of motor vehicle — cars, motorcycles, goods vehicles, buses, coaches and taxis.
The same rules also apply to anyone who is supervising a learner driver. As a supervisor in this situation, it is your responsibility to make sure that the learner is driving safely and being considerate to other road users, and this requires your undivided attention.
This may all seem quite clear, but more contentious is what counts as "use" of a mobile phone, and the exact definition of "driving" your car.
Driving a car
Driving is quite widely defined in motoring law. Even if your car is off the road and is not moving, you may be deemed to be driving if your engine is on. Therefore, if you stop your car to use your phone, it would be wise to turn your engine off first.
Likewise the police will still consider you to be driving if you are stuck in a traffic jam, so in this situation you should not alleviate your boredom by using your phone, other than through a hands-free set.
All this having been said, each case has to be judged on its merits, so nothing is cut and dried.
Using a mobile phone
"Use" of a phone requires some form of interaction with the device, such as dialling a number, looking at the phone to see who is calling, or speaking speaking to or texting someone. It can certainly be disputed that merely holding a phone is enough to constitute using it.
The burden of proof is on the prosecution to show that you were using the phone. This will usually be based on testimony from the officer who spotted you. However, if you can prove that you did not make/send or receive any calls or texts at the time of the alleged offence, you may be able convince the court that no offence was committed.
The only situation in which you can use your phone while driving is if you need to dial 999 or 112. This is only allowed if there is a genuine emergency and you are not able to stop and park your car at that moment.
Hands-free phones are not prohibited. Hands-free phones can still be a distraction, however, and you can still be prosecuted under Regulation 104 of the Road Vehicles (Construction and Use) Regulations 1986 if the police deem you to not be in proper control of your vehicle due to the use of such a device.
Use of a hands-free phone when an incident occurs could amount to careless or dangerous driving.
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