Angus World | Human Interest, Police

Safety experts at RoadAngel say it is time for a zero-tolerance approach to the use of mobile phones while driving.

Following the law change last year, it is now completely illegal to hold and use any mobile phone, sat nav, tablets and other devices which can send and receive data, while driving.

The new legislation, which came into force in March, doubled the fine and the number of penalty points drivers could receive if they are caught using their mobile devices illegally. The new measures were introduced following a series of high-profile cases and research suggesting the practice was widespread.

Motorists are permitted to use phones in certain circumstances, however, such as making a 999 call or a contactless payment at a drive-through restaurant while the car isn’t moving.

Hands-free access – such as through voice-command systems – is also allowed under the new rules, as long as motorists aren’t holding the devices while they drive.

This means that a smartphone displaying a maps app is allowed if it is in a cradle and not touched by the driver while driving, but confusingly the same rule does not apply to a fixed car infotainment system which the driver can touch.

Furthermore, if the cradle holding the smartphone or aftermarket sat nav device is placed in a position deemed to be obstructing the sight of the road and traffic ahead, then a fine and points could soon follow.

Gary Digva, founder of RoadAngel said that, despite some apparent inconsistencies in the legislation, a tougher approach is called for to decisively crack down on motorists who continue to use devices while at the wheel.

He said: “There’s a lot of confusion around the use of phones while driving, but we think it’s time for the police to take a much tougher approach.

“Using devices while driving has been shown to cause accidents. It’s time a clear message was sent to motorists that it is never acceptable.

“If police see any driver touching their phone while behind the wheel they should pull them over on the spot, seize the device and issue a fine.

“Doing so would deter drivers from using their phones behind the wheel and send a clear message to all road users that phone use is dangerous.”

Mr. Digva added that changes in the law had led to confusion among drivers and more needed to be done to get the safety message across.

He continued: “A lot of people are still confused about what they can and can’t do with a mobile phone when driving and that’s because the law is constantly being updated.

“Essentially, it is now illegal to hold a mobile phone or any other device while driving. There are some exceptions, however, like if you need to make a 999 call.

“A lot of people who don’t have a built in infotainment system in their car will use their phone for navigation and they still can, it just needs to be in a cradle and in a position that isn’t classified as obstructing the view of the driver.

“Not only can being on your phone lead to hefty fines and points but it also puts a lot of people in danger, that’s why it’s really important to make sure you have the right set up and equipment for a safe journey, no matter where you ‘re traveling.’

The law change closed a previous loophole which technically allowed drivers to use and hold their phones, as it could be argued that they were not using devices for ‘interactive communication’, as the law previously stated.

It is now completely illegal for those behind the wheel to even hold their phones and devices, even if they are switched off.

The Highway Code also makes it very clear that this law still applies to drivers who are stopped at traffic lights or in queuing traffic; when supervising a learner driver; or using a car which has automatic stop-start technology.

However, there are some exceptions to the rules surrounding mobile phone and touchscreen device usage which drivers need to be aware of.

In an emergency motorists are legally allowed to call 999 or 112 while driving if it is impractical or unsafe to otherwise stop the vehicle.

Other exceptions are if the car is safely parked up, the driver is making contactless payment in the car which is not moving, such as in restaurant drive-throughs, or using a device to park a vehicle remotely.

There are also rules when operating devices which have hands-free access – drivers are able to use hands-free devices in their cars, as long as they are not actually holding them while driving.

Hands-free access devices include Bluetooth headsets, voice command systems, windshield mounts, dashboard holders or built-in sat navs.

If drivers wish to turn off or otherwise use devices with hands-free access, such as changing directions on sat-navs and map apps, they must pull over and park up safely to operate the device legally. Motorists caught holding or using mobile phones or other touchscreen devices while driving could face up to six points on their license and a £200 fine, and for those who have passed their test in the last two years, their driving license could be stripped away completely .

Further tips on staying safe while driving can be found at https://www.roadangelgroup.com/.

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