Bus Bobbies Tackle Mobile Phone Motorists And Other Offences


The Law Of… using mobile phones while driving

Police officers in Plymouth have taken the eye in the sky approach to new extremes, chartering a double decker bus and riding around the town spying on motorists from the top deck.

Julie Robertson, Head of Motoring Defences at Simpson Millar, boards the bobby bus and looks at the new penalties for using handheld devices behind the wheel.

Mobile Phone Motorists Targeted In Bobby Bus Blitz

It was an initiative hailed by Devon and Cornwall police as a "great example of how we can maximise policing resources by working closely with partner organisations," and one that saw over 130 unsuspecting drivers accused of offences ranging from using a mobile phone at the wheel to not wearing a seat belt.

From their clandestine vantage points on the top deck, the officers taking part in operation 'No Excuse' were able to snoop on drivers committing the alleged misdemeanours, alerting colleagues on the ground who then pulled the motorists over.

Hailed as a "very successful" experiment, the bus-based big brother tactics came in the wake of a recent increase in penalties for using handheld and internet-enabled devices while driving.

What Are The New Penalties For Using A Mobile Phone While Driving?

As of 1st March 2017, the law was changed regarding the amount drivers could be fined for using a mobile phone at the wheel.

Up until this date, a driver caught using their device could be issued with a Fixed Penalty Notice for £100. This has now doubled to £200, along with the mandatory penalty points that can be issued, which has risen to 6.

New drivers – who serve a 2 year probationary period once they have passed their test – face having their licence revoked if they accept a fixed penalty for a mobile phone offence or are convicted by the Magistrates. This means they will have to reapply for a provisional licence and retake the theory and driving tests to legally return to the road.

You are under no obligation to accept the penalty if accused of using your phone, or any type of internet-enabled handheld device, while driving, with the possible consequences of a heavy fine and endorsements upon you licence meaning you should seek legal advice at the earliest opportunity.

Julie comments:

"This shows the extent to which the police are prepared to go in order to catch people out. Some might say these tactics are underhand and there's certainly a hint of 'big brother is watching you' about this whole approach."

"It's important to remember that if you are using your mobile the offence can be committed whether you are stopped at lights, in a queue of traffic, or even supervising a learner. You can use a hands-free setup, so long as you remain in full control of the vehicle throughout, but the only time you can use your actual phone is if you are safely parked up, or you have to call the emergency services and it is either unsafe or impractical to stop."

"If it is alleged that you have used your mobile at the wheel, never admit guilt. You can dispute the Fixed Penalty Notice, saving you from having to pay the £200 fine and take the 6 points, which, if taking your number of endorsements to 12 or more, would see you disqualified."

"Seeking independent legal advice is necessary to best assess your chances of beating an alleged wrongdoing. Usually a forensic examination of your mobile will be required and disclosure of your phone records will need to be secured. Choosing a lawyer who is a specialist in defending motoring offences is essential in order to maximise your chances of being found not guilty."

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