The dangers of using mobile phones while driving are well-known, but the laws surrounding the use of a phone whilst behind the wheel might be changing very soon.
A Hot Topic…
According to a 2018 report by the RAC, 25% of drivers admit to using their phone whilst driving, during the last year. Despite this, 38% say this is one of the main dangers posed by other motorists that they are concerned about.
Whereas, the UK Department of Transport reported 33 fatalities and 90 serious injuries in road traffic collisions where mobile phone use was found to be a contributing factor.
As personal injury solicitors, our team are well-appointed to advise in RTAs or cases where mobile phones have been the culprit.
What Is the Current Law on Using a Mobile Phone While Driving?
The current law dictates that:
- It is illegal to use a hand-held mobile phone or sat nav while driving, and any hands-free devices should be set up before the engine is turned on.
- This applies even if the vehicle is stopped in traffic or at lights, or if you’re supervising a learner driver.
- Police may still stop you, if they think you have been distracted.
- The only exceptions are if you’re safely parked or you need to call 99/122 in an emergency and it’s unsafe to stop.
If you’re caught with your phone behind the wheel, you could get up to 6 penalty points and a £200 fine. You will also likely loose your licence, if you have passed your test in the last 2 years. Further action may be taken, including a court visit.
What is the New Mobile Phone Law of 2018?
Last year, a number of new stringent updates were introduced. The new mobile phone laws of 2018 meant that the legislation originally enacted in 2003 were updated to the form is stands in today.
Why May the Law Be Changed?
Recently, there was a case where a Mr Ramsey Barreto was found guilty of using his phone to film a crash in North London, but the 51-year-old successfully appealed. His solicitors argued “he wasn’t using it to communicate”. Now, as a result, two High Court judges have criticised the laws surrounding driving and mobile phones. They noted that mobile phone laws had failed to evolve with the rise in smartphones.
"We've been arguing that unless police can prove beyond reasonable doubt that what someone was doing was actually communicating, it wasn't an offence to be using a smartphone" said Emma Patterson, whose firm represented Mr Barreto.
Although Mr Barreto was successful, this doesn’t mean the law has changed… yet.
So, What Could Change?
Current law prohibits driving while using a mobile phone or other device for calls and other interactive communication, whilst holding it. This relies on a two-way function, and simply holding the phone provides a loophole.
Despite the fact drivers could still be charged with driving without due care or dangerous driving, this has shined a light on the nonsensical wording and the need for a refresh.
This has, in turn, shone a light on hands-free mobile phones, and a group of MPs have suggested drivers could also be banned from using these. They believe that current laws give the ‘misleading impression’ that hands-free options are safe, yet the Commons Transport Select Committee says they carry ‘the same risks of collision’.
A public consultation on the matter will be published by the end of the year.
Lilian Greenwood MP said:
“If mobile phone use while driving is to become as socially unacceptable as drink-driving, much more effort needs to go into educating drivers about the risks and consequences of using a phone behind the wheel.
“Offenders also need to know there is a credible risk of being caught, and that there are serious consequences for being caught.”
“There is also a misleading impression that hands-free use is safe. The reality is that any use of a phone distracts from a driver’s ability to pay full attention, and the government should consider extending the ban to reflect this.”
A Department for Transport spokeswoman told the BBC:
"While mobile phones are a vital part of modern life and business, drivers must always use them safely and responsibly.
"Being distracted by a mobile phone while driving is dangerous and puts people's lives at risk. The law is clear that anyone driving dangerously is committing a criminal offence."
What Does that Mean for Car Accident Personal Injury Claims?
If you’re considering make a claim regarding a crash involving the use of a mobile phone, and are worried how this may influence the outcome, please get in touch with our friendly and award-winning team of personal injury solicitors today.