Survey Finds More Drivers Using Mobile Phones While Driving


The Law Of... whatsapping at the wheel

The RAC has carried out a survey on motorists' attitudes to using mobile phones while driving, which has returned some surprising results. The survey lifted the lid on the concerns and attitudes of the average motorist in 2016. Using a sample of 1,714 motorists, the RAC's research was fairly revealing, particularly when it came to the subject of mobile phones.

The Law Of... whatsapping at the wheel

Patrick Campbell, a Motoring Offences Solicitor at Simpson Millar, examines the research and discusses the penalties faced by drivers caught texting at the wheel.

The Survey's Findings

The Survey showed that motorists' attitudes to using handheld devices behind the wheel had relaxed over the course of the previous 2 years. In 2014, 7% of those surveyed said it was acceptable to take a call while driving - the new survey showed this percentage had doubled to 14%.

Likewise, the number of drivers checking social media while in stationary traffic rose from 14% to 20%. Conversely, those stating it was unacceptable to take a quick call at the wheel had fallen from 84% to 78%.

Further findings in the survey reveal:

  • Participants having taken a photo while driving – 14%
  • Participants having taken a photo in stationary traffic – 22%
  • Participants admitting to having made or received a call while driving – 31%

The last figure in particular is a sign of the times, as in 2014 it was a mere 8%. It equates to an estimated 11.78million of the UK's driving population.

Mobile Phones, Driving and the Law

Unless you are safely parked – or dialling 999 or 112 to report a genuine emergency and it is unsafe or impractical to stop – it is illegal to use a handheld mobile phone or other handheld interactive communication device while driving a vehicle or riding a motorcycle. The same applies if you are supervising a driver. Police will check your phone records, so if you are caught and claim to have been calling emergency services and it is subsequently proved to be untrue, you could find yourself facing a further charge of perverting the course of justice.

It is permissible to use hands free, sat navs or 2 way radios as long as a driver is not distracted and retains control of their vehicle.

If stopped by the police for using a handheld phone at the wheel, you could get one or more of the following:

  • £100 fixed penalty notice
  • 3 penalty points on your licence
  • A court summons resulting in a maximum fine of £1,000 (£2,500 if you are driving a bus or heavy goods vehicle)
  • Disqualification from driving

If you are a new driver and get 6 or more endorsements on your licence within the first 2 years, you'll automatically lose it.

The endorsements attributed to the offence will increase from 3 to 6 points in 2017 and this will place new drivers at risk of revocation from driving, as well as more experienced drivers at risk of disqualification if they have accrued 6 or more penalty points within 3 years of the offence.

Patrick Campbell comments:

"The RAC survey shows how attitudes have changed to using mobile phones in the relatively short space of 2 years. With that in mind, it is worth noting that although the fixed penalty notice system is in place to handle the majority of these incidents, if the police think you have caused danger by using your mobile, they may charge you with dangerous driving."

"This more serious charge naturally carries a more serious penalty, with the possibility of a prison sentence and a minimum 12 month disqualification both on the cards."

"Of course, it is the duty of the police and its prosecution to prove a dangerous driving case against you and a charge doesn't necessarily mean conviction. We would advise you seek independent and professional legal advice to ensure you don't get unnecessarily penalised."

"Simpson Millar is happy to offer expert and non-judgmental advice to anybody who finds themselves accused of a mobile phone-related driving offence."

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