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Latest on mobile phone penalties

If you are caught using your phone whilst driving, the penalties have never been stricter than they are now. With the amount of people, especially the younger generation, owning and using smartphones constantly on the rise from year to year, the danger of people using their phones whilst driving are, therefore, on the rise too.

The graph below shows increases in those owning a smartphone across all age groups. There have been a number of changes in the law with regards to using a handheld device whilst driving, so we at TFS Vehicle Leasing wanted to clear it up for you. This blog will explain the most recent laws and the penalties you would face if caught using your handheld device whilst driving.


The Current Situation

Although the number of people being found guilty for using mobile phones behind the wheel has dropped significantly, this isn’t directly linked to the decline of people using phones whilst they are driving. Unfortunately, it is in fact corresponding with the reduction of traffic officers, which consequently means that fewer offenders are being caught. The Ministry of Justice published figures for the offenders that were convicted of “using or causing others to use a handheld mobile phone while driving” showing they dropped from 22,135 to 11,961 between 2012 and 2016. It was the RAC that correlated the decline in convictions to the fall in the number of traffic officers on the roads. In fact, the number of traffic officers has fallen by a third according to a Freedom of Information request; the number of officers in 2007 was at 3,766 but only 2,643 2017.

In March 2017, the penalty was increased to £200 and 6 points on your licence if you are convicted of using your phone behind the wheel. Of course, for new drivers, this may have acted as more of a deterrent as if you receive 6 points on your license within the first two years of passing your test, your licence would be revoked. However, just six months after this law was enforced, an RAC report suggested over nine million motorists in the UK had in fact used a handheld phone to make or receive calls whilst they were driving; 23% of respondents actually admitted to using their phone behind the wheel over the past year. The report did also show a 29% reduction of phone use at the wheel over the years, which worked towards reinforcing the idea that the Government’s tougher stance did have some impact. However, as the RAC pointed out, it can be extremely difficult to change the opinions and actions of many people who are set in their ways and do not see the danger of using a phone whilst driving. The RAC Spokesman, Pete Williams, stated “it is very telling that convictions for drivers caught using a handheld phone at the wheel have been on a downward trajectory for years, as the number of traffic officers has fallen by 30% across the last 10 years”. He also reiterated the point that many people believe they won’t be caught.


The Law Right Now

You should be aware that it is illegal to hold a phone or sat nav whilst you are driving or riding a motorcycle. You are only permitted to use them if you have hands-free access, the following are examples of this:
- Voice command
- Dashboard holder or mat
- Bluetooth headset
- Windscreen mount
- Built-in sat nav

You should also ensure that the device does not block your view of the road or traffic ahead in any way. The police have the right to stop you if they believe you are distracted whilst driving and therefore not in full control of your vehicle.

These laws still apply even when you are:
- Queuing in traffic
- Stopped at traffic lights
- Supervising a learner driver

You are able to use a hand-held phone if either of the following apply to you at the time:
- You are safely parked
- There is an emergency and you need to call 999 or 112 and there is nowhere safe or practical to stop

The current penalties for being caught using a handheld phone whilst driving is 6 points on your licence and a £200 fine. As previously stated, you will also lose your licence if you are still within two years of passing your driving test. You can also get 3 penalty points if you do not have full view of the road and traffic ahead of you or proper control of the vehicle.

You can also be taken to court where the following can happen:
- Banned from driving or riding
- Receive a maximum fine of £1,000 (if you are driving a lorry or a bus the maximum fine is £2,500)


Road Incidents

Between 2013 and 2015 24 people were killed, on average, each year in road collisions involving drivers using their mobile phone in comparison to 17 people in 2012, according to the Department for Transport. Although these reports do not state if it was directly linked to the driver that caused the fatality, it still highlights the severity of the use of a mobile phone whilst driving.

The police actually believe that the accurate number of incidents caused by the use of mobile phones is significantly higher than what is recorded. Mobile phones are only seized following an incident that has resulted in death or a life-changing injury, which indicates that the link with mobile phone use and less serious incidents are not investigated. This also suggests that the amount of car write-offs linked with mobile phone use could be much higher than officially recorded.

The Snapchat app has led to a huge amount of people using Snapchat whilst driving. It has become a way of showing off to friends, socially. With Instagram now having stories, there have been incidents similar here, but Snapchat seems to be one of the dominant apps used whilst driving. This is a huge cause for concern as many of those taking part in this act are younger drivers, meaning they are likely to be inexperienced and act in an irresponsible way.

Although there haven’t been any figures published on the exact number of accidents and write-offs that have occurred due to Snapchat, there has been a number of stories emerge in the media of drivers crashing the car whilst using the app. Just over 10% of Snapchat users have admitted to using the app whilst driving, but it is believed that the actual percentage is much higher. The creators of Snapchat in no way have condoned the behaviour and even produced a ‘filter’ saying ‘I won’t snap and drive’; however, there was no measure of how successful this filter was in preventing more accidents.

Some tips to avoid the temptation of using your phone whilst driving is to put your phone in the glove box, or a safe place that is out of sight. You can also ask passengers to refrain from using their phones in front of you whilst you are driving to avoid this second-hand distraction.


Effects on Insurance Premiums

Along with the hefty fine and increased points on your licence, it will go on record as a CU80 Driving Offence which will inevitably affect your insurance premium. Research from the AA emerged that 4 out of 9 car insurance firms that were questioned would go as far to refuse to insure someone with a CU80 mobile offence.

So what exactly is a CU80 Driving Offence? The official definition of a CU80 driving offence within Section 41D of the Road Traffic Act 1988 is “the driving of a motor vehicle while using a hand-held mobile telephone or other hand-held interactive communication devices”. Specifically:
- A hand-held device “is or must be held at some point during the course of making or receiving a call or performing any other interactive communication function”.
- Using a device ‘similar’ to a mobile phone which involves an “interactive communication” function by transmitting and receiving data.

The AA stated that offenders can expect insurance premiums to potentially increase by up to 40pc when they come to renew their vehicle insurance. They also added that these higher premiums will continue for up to five years. This means that not only will the offender have to pay the £200 fine, the CU80 penalty could also see them pay out an extra £543 over the five years.

Using your mobile phone whilst driving has been illegal since 2003, but you should be aware that this is not limited to making calls on your phone. Actions such as checking an app, social media, a map etc. are also convictable offences.

To avoid penalties and, more importantly, danger, you should always be responsible and choose not to use a handheld device behind the wheel. A simple decision can avoid putting yourself and others at risk. If you have any questions about this topic, do not hesitate to contact us on Twitter or Facebook.

At TFS Vehicle Leasing, we are always keen to promote safe driving and safe vehicles. We not only care about providing cheap leasing deals but safe vehicles too. If you are looking for personal lease car or business lease car deals that you can trust, we have a range of options available. Use our car lease search tool if you have something specific in mind, or if you have any questions, feel free to contact us for more information, we are always happy to help!


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Posted on 30th April 2018 at 9:01 AM

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