What To Do If You Are Caught Driving With A Mobile Phone
The Law Of… Using A Mobile Phone At The Wheel
The rules regarding driving with a mobile phone changed in 2017. The penalties were increased and the law tightened to reflect a more punitive approach to the offence. Head of Motoring Offences, Julie Robertson, looks at the law, the penalties and what you should do if you are caught driving with a mobile phone.
What Does The Law Say About Driving With A Mobile Phone?
It is illegal to drive while using a mobile phone, an offence that isn't simply confined to talking on a handheld device or vehicles in motion.
If the engine of your vehicle is running and you are behind the wheel, you should not interact with a handheld phone in any way whatsoever. This includes answering calls, making calls, sending texts, checking social media and looking for directions. The law also applies to tablet devices.
The only circumstances under which you can legally use a mobile phone in the driving seat are if you are safely parked up with the engine off, or if it is an emergency and it is too dangerous to stop. If you are sat in traffic or waiting for the lights to change it is still illegal to use your mobile phone.
Is it Illegal To Use A Satnav While Driving?
If you have a satnav app installed on your mobile phone, it is not illegal to use it while driving. However, if you touch your hand held device at any time while the vehicle is in motion, waiting in traffic or resting at traffic lights, you are breaking the law.
The penalties for using a satnav in this manner while driving are the same as if you were using your phone in any other way.
You must set the satnav up prior to beginning your journey and leave it alone until you have reached your destination. If, for any reason, you need to reprogram or interact with the satnav in any way other than voice control, you must ensure you are safely parked up with the engine of your vehicle turned off.
What Happens If You Are Caught Driving With A Mobile Phone?
If you are accused of using a mobile phone while driving, you will be issued with an endorsable Fixed Penalty Notice (FPN). This is a conditional offer of a fine that if you choose to accept and pay will see the matter closed.
The endorsable element means that it also comes with penalty points. These points will be taken into account by a court for 3 years from the date of the offence but will remain on your driving licence for 4 years.
Although complying with a Fixed Penalty Notice may seem like the easiest option, it is not the only one. If you choose this route, you will not only be admitting your guilt, but also burdened with a substantial fine and penalty points.
The alternative is to refuse to pay the fine and challenge the Fixed Penalty Notice.
How Do I Challenge A Fixed Penalty Notice For Driving With A Mobile Phone?
If you have been caught driving with a mobile phone, you have the right to challenge any subsequent Fixed Penalty Notice. Doing so will see you ordered to attend court, where you will be given the opportunity to defend yourself against the allegation and put your side of the story across.
If you choose to challenge the accusation, you can mount a more convincing argument in your favour if you seek legal representation. A professional motoring offence solicitor will have a comprehensive understanding of how the law works and what procedural aspects can be focused upon to mount the strongest possible defence.
Seeking independent legal advice at the earliest opportunity following the receipt of an FPN will not only provide you with a stronger case when it comes to court, but also inform you of whether you have a chance of successfully challenging the allegation in the first place.
The onus remains on the police force to prove that you are guilty.
What Are The Penalties For Driving With A Mobile Phone?
The penalties for using a hand-held mobile phone were increased in March 2017. They are as follows:
- £200 fine
- 6 penalty points.
If you are taken to court for the offence and are convicted by the Magistrates, the possible penalties are:
- 6 penalty points
- A driving ban
- A maximum fine of £1,000 (£2,500 for lorry or bus drivers).
The penalties apply to motorcycle riders as well.
New Drivers And Mobile Phone Offences
If you are a new driver, having passed your test within the past 2 years, and you are caught driving with a mobile phone you will face the same penalties as everybody else.
You will also lose your licence, as new drivers are only allowed 6 points before it is revoked. To get your licence back you will have to apply for a new provisional one, pass your theory and practical tests and pay all the associated costs again.
What Are The Exceptions For Driving With A Mobile Phone?
As the law stands, there is only the one exception and that is if there is an emergency and it isn't safe to stop.
Otherwise any mobile phone that is interacted with must be completely hands-free. That means you do not use or handle the actual device at any point during your journey, unless you are parked up and the engine is switched off.
The police force may still stop you if they believe that a completely hands-free mobile phone is distracting you while driving.
What Can I Do If I Am Caught Driving With A Mobile Phone?
A charge of driving with a mobile phone can put your licence, your livelihood, your family and your home at risk. Therefore it is essential to obtain legal advice and find out what your options are.
Our specialist Motoring Offences team has extensive experience of defending mobile phone driving cases and successfully challenging Fixed Penalty Notices. Their expertise in this area of law allows the team to find procedural faults – that can often guarantee an acquittal – which other, less specialised solicitors may miss.
We offer a friendly, professional and non-judgemental service, ready to help you whenever you need us.
If you have been caught driving with a mobile phone, contact Simpson Millar today.