The mobile phone has revolutionised the way we communicate, and they are used in all areas of modern life. But their popularity has had some negative impacts on society, not least of which are the risks mobile phones pose when used by someone driving a vehicle. In the UK, the law has had to adapt quickly to meet the challenges posed by this technology, and now it is illegal to use a mobile phone while in charge of a vehicle.
This legislation covers mobile phone usage in relation to all vehicles, including motorcycles. As well as being illegal to receive or make phone calls, it is illegal to send and receive messages and to access the internet with a mobile device while driving or riding. Even if a driver is stopped at traffic lights, or is in a traffic queue, it is still against the law.
The law has been formulated based on research aimed at showing how much slower reaction times can be if a driver is using a mobile device. Compared to drivers who have been drinking alcohol at the legal limit, for example, reaction times are 30% slower in drivers using mobiles at the wheel - according to the government's DirectGov website. Research also suggests that a driver is four-times more likely to crash when using a mobile while driving or riding, compared to someone who has been drinking at the legal limit.
It is also illegal to use a mobile device if you are sitting in the passenger seat in charge of a learner driver. Additionally, if you are an employer and you ask your employees to make or receive phone calls while they are driving, you may also face prosecution.
If the police catch you using your mobile phone while driving or riding a vehicle, you will be subject to a fixed penalty notice of £60. In addition, you will have three penalty points on your licence. But if the police decide to take you to court you may face a fine of up to £1,000, and receive a full driving ban.
If you are in charge of a bus or a heavy goods vehicle and get caught using a mobile phone, you may face a fine of up to £2,500, and lose your licence.
Under the New Drivers Act, if you get six penalty points in the first two years of driving, you'll lose your licence. Only after re-sitting and passing another driving test would you be permitted to drive again.
There are only few scenarios in which you are permitted to use a mobile phone: when you are safely parked up, if you are a passenger (not in charge of a learner driver), or if you need to make an emergency 999 call.
The use of sat-navs, two-way radios and hands free phones whilst driving is not illegal, but if the police believe you are not fully in control of your vehicle because of them, you may face the same penalties as listed above.
Written by James Sheehan, a passionate blogger with past legal experience.
This post was written on behalf of Law on the Web