Using a mobile phone while driving can be an easy mistake for anyone to make, and you may be able to dispute a charge if one is made against you.
Even though mobile phones have become an indispensable part of life for many people, it is against the law to use a hand-held phone or similar device while driving. It has been reported that the distraction of using a phone was a factor in 22 fatal accidents and a further 99 incidents resulting in serious injury in 2015.
This applies when you are driving a car or a motorcycle, and even If you are stopped at traffic lights or stationary in queuing traffic.
If you have any questions about the law around phone use on the roads, or you want legal advice after being charged with using a mobile while driving, First4lawyers can help. Simply get in touch.
What constitutes using a mobile phone while driving?
It is important to remember that, even if you never make a call when behind the wheel, it is possible to be considered to be using the phone in the eyes of the law if, for example, you’re texting or browsing the internet.
Driving regulations state that the use of a mobile telephone or similar hand-held device while driving is prohibited. The law defines hand-held devices as items that must be held in order to carry out a communication function. Devices that fall under this law include anything that can send or receive spoken or written messages, send or receive still or moving images, and anything that can provide access to the internet. A smartphone, such as an iPhone, would come under this classification.
If you have your phone rigged up to a hands-free kit, and you can operate it without holding it, then you can use it in a way that is not prohibited by this offence (such as pushing buttons on a phone while it is in a holder). However, the offence will apply if you have picked up your phone to check for text messages, or if you were cradling the device between your ear and your shoulder – the law prohibits any use of the device that involves holding it, even if you did not hold it with your hands.
There are very few exemptions to the rules against using mobile phones while driving, and the law prohibits the use of hand-held devices in static or slow-moving traffic, or at traffic lights. However, you can use your phone with your hands if you are parked safely. The law defines this as being parked in a lay-by or being pulled up on a single yellow line with your car’s engine switched off. One key exemption to using your phone at the wheel is if you need to call the emergency services and it is unsafe for you to stop or pull over to do so.
What are the penalties for using a mobile phone while driving?
The maximum penalty is a fine of £1,000 and a driving ban, although bus and lorry drivers can be fined up to £2,500.
The most common punishment is an automatic fixed penalty notice. If the police spot you using a phone or other handheld device when driving, they may pull you over and give you an on-the-spot fine of £200, and your licence will also be given six penalty points, as per new laws introduced on March 1st, 2017.If this has happened to you, remember: you may be entitled to take your case to court to plead your defence. By getting in touch with First4lawyers, we can help you to understand the law on the use of mobile phones and other devices before you go to court.
What are the defences to using a mobile phone while driving?
You may be able to go to court to plead your defence if you wish to. The law states that you only need to be seen using a mobile while driving, although police officers could mistake certain driver behaviour for the use of a mobile phone or similar device.
For example, you might have been adjusting your seat position while traffic was at a standstill, and an officer may have mistakenly thought you were texting.
The details of your particular case will shape your defence against any charge, and a well-argued defence from skilled solicitors, such as those available through First4lawyers, could offer the best chance of an acquittal of the charge, or a reduced penalty.
If you were using your phone while driving in order to dial 999, or in a genuine emergency when it was not possible to pull over, you may be exempt from punishment.
I’ve been given a mobile phone while driving charge that I want to dispute – what should I do?
If you are charged with an offence that you disagree with, you do not have to accept a fixed penalty notice from the police. If you refuse it, then you may be summonsed to appear in court.
For this type of offence, hearings take place in a magistrates’ court, and there you will be able to give your version of events. To make sure you give yourself the best possible representation in court, it’s best to choose an experienced motoring solicitor to help you build your defence and achieve the outcome you want.
We at First4lawyers work closely with motoring solicitors who regularly deal with cases involving the use of mobile phones while driving. Call us, or submit a form and we’ll ring you back, for a no-obligation conversation about how we can help with your defence.