Using a hand-held mobile phone while driving is illegal and it is a controversial and incredibly dangerous issue. Many road safety organisations and the Government feel that it should be viewed as socially unacceptable as drink or drug driving.
Mobile phone driving laws were first enacted in December 2003, and since 2007 the penalty was three points on your licence and a fine.
But from 1 March 2017, the penalty doubled – so being caught using a mobile phone while driving now carries a penalty of six points and a £200 fine.
The police have the power to stop motorists if they believe they have been distracted by using a mobile phone while driving, even if it’s fully hands-free.
Some road safety groups believe mobile phones should be completely switched off while driving, to avoid any distractions.
According to a RAC Report on Motoring it found that one in two drivers said they use their phone for calls while stuck in traffic, and one in five motorists admit they check social media. Worryingly, 14% also said they take images or video while driving, 20% have written emails, texts or social media updates behind the wheel, and 6% admit they use their hand-held phone “most or all of the time” while driving.
The RAC Report on Motoring states it is difficult to say to what extent the distractions from hand-held mobile phone use cause accidents, or whether this problem has become more acute, but it is likely that official statistics understate the problem. In other words, however alarming the stats are here, the reality is probably even worse still.
The easiest way to not be distracted by using your mobile phone in the car is to switch it off.
If you have to stay in touch, make sure your phone is paired up to Bluetooth, so you can still take calls. Bluetooth devices cost little and, increasingly, modern cars have Bluetooth connectivity as standard.
Place the phone in the glove-box or keep it in your pocket, case or handbag, out of sight, with the sound turned off, so you won’t be distracted by the screen lighting up or message alert sounds.
If you can’t trust yourself not to be distracted by your phone, there are apps to that prevent you from using a hand-held phone behind the wheel. One of the most popular is called LifeSaver, available for iOS and Android devices. This cleverly uses a combination of GPS monitoring and a rewards system to help overcome distracted driving. It blocks the phone while driving (including text messages), and can automatically alert others that you’ve arrived safely at your destination, if you wish.