Using A Mobile Phone While Driving FAQs
The Law Of... rejecting a fixed penalty notice
With a recent surge in the crackdown on drivers using mobile phones while at the wheel, Patrick Campbell, a Motoring Offences Solicitor with Simpson Millar, answers your key questions on mobiles phones and driving.
Is using a mobile phone while driving illegal?
Yes. You are prohibited by law from using handsets and internet-enabled devices while driving a motor vehicle or motorcycle. This applies even if your vehicle has stopped at traffic lights or is queued in traffic.
Does the law allow exceptional circumstances?
Yes. If you are safely parked up, you are permitted by law to use your mobile phone. The only time you would be allowed to use your device while driving though, is in the event of a genuine emergency, where it is unsafe or impractical to stop.
What about hands-free kits?
- You are not holding the phone
- You can operate the phone without holding it (for example, it is in a cradle, or your car has an in-built Bluetooth system)...
- ... you can use hands-free equipment lawfully
Why is using a mobile phone while driving illegal?
Research by a number of organisations
has linked the use of mobile phones while driving with an increased possibility of causing an accident. Evidence has shown that a driver's ability to remain safely in charge of their vehicle becomes impaired in a number of ways. These include:
- Maintaining a safe lane position
- Keeping a safe and constant speed
- Slowing reaction times
- Retaining a safe distance from the car in front
- Reducing the driver's awareness of other traffic around them
The studies that have been carried out have confirmed these impairments and others increase the likelihood of accidents occurring.
How common an offence is driving while using a mobile phone?
Mobile phone use at the wheel has increased considerably since 2014.
A survey from earlier this year revealed that the proportion of motorists
who thought it acceptable to answer their phone while driving had doubled to 14%. Elsewhere, drivers who checked social media while in stationary traffic had risen to 20%, while the number who admitted to actually making or receiving calls while driving was up from 8% to 31%.
The rise has been linked to the continued proliferation of mobile devices, along with increased usage of social media channels.
What are the penalties for using a mobile phone at the wheel?
If you are caught using a mobile phone for any reason while driving, you will receive an automatic Fixed Penalty Notice. This will be a fine of £200 and 6 points on your licence. If you are a new driver caught within 2 years of passing your test, you will automatically lose your license.
In the event that your case goes to court and the mandatory 6 points are not imposed, you could find yourself disqualified and facing a fine of up to £1,000. For bus and lorry drivers, this fine can be as much as £2,500.
What is a Fixed Penalty Notice?
Fixed Penalty Notices (FPNs) are used by the police to enforce moving traffic violations. These include speeding offences, restricted turns, traffic light misdemeanours and driving while using a mobile phone.
A Fixed Penalty Notice is a conditional offer, meaning you have the choice of paying it, accepting the points and hearing no more on the matter, or rejecting it and receiving a summons to appear in court.
It is worth noting that choosing to accept and pay a Fixed Penalty Notice is an admission of guilt.
What happens if I don't pay the fine from the Fixed Penalty Notice?
If you choose to admit guilt and accept the Fixed Penalty Notice but fail to pay the fine, a court summons will be issued and your case will be dealt with by the Magistrates, who have higher sentencing powers.
Can I challenge a Fixed Penalty Notice?
Yes. If you maintain that you were not using your mobile phone while driving, as the police have stated, you can reject the Fixed Penalty Notice and take your case to court.
How do I challenge a Fixed Penalty Notice?
If you choose to go to court to plead your defence, it is worth noting that the onus is on the police to prove your guilt. If they are unable to do this, the court will dismiss your case and award costs in your favour. Evidence such as phone records and anything else that can be used to repudiate the allegation will be useful when your day in court arrives.
To give yourself the best chance of having your case dismissed, you should seek legal advice from a motoring offences solicitor with a proven success rate in defending mobile phone driving offences
What do I do next?
Remember, if you have received a Fixed Penalty Notice for using a mobile phone while driving, you don't have to accept it.
With our expert motoring offences team
on hand to give you impartial, non-judgemental advice, Simpson Millar will offer you the support you need, should you find yourself wrongly accused.