By Mark Cartwright, FTA’s Head of Vans and Light Commercial Vehicles
Half a million UK drivers still use their mobile phones while driving, according to a recent study by the Department of Transport. This puts both the driver and other road users in serious danger; any type of phone use – calls, texts, emails, social media and other internet use – is illegal and holding the phone in any way, even if it is just held between the knees, for example, is an offence.
In a bid to curb usage, the government doubled the penalties for using a hand-held mobile phone while driving to six penalty points and a £200 fine in March 2017. Vocational drivers may even have their entitlements suspended by the Traffic Commissioner and newly-qualified drivers will automatically lose their licence under the points system.
Using a mobile phone with a hands free kit can also be an offence if the driver is distracted or does not have proper control of the vehicle at the time. The penalty is the same – six points and a £200 fine – so employers should carefully consider whether their staff should be expected to take calls on the move.
Drivers who use mobile phones are now also liable to prosecution for the more serious offences of careless or dangerous driving if it can be proved that an offence was caused by failure to have proper control of the vehicle due to distraction. Penalties for careless and dangerous driving are substantially higher than for the specific mobile phone offence.
Employers, managers, colleagues and callers may be legally implicated when a driver uses a mobile phone as causing, permitting, aiding, or abetting the infringement.