Don’t be caught out! Be in the know & keep on the right side of the law
On 1 December 2003, a law came into force to prohibit drivers using a hand-held mobile phone, or similar device, while driving. It also made it an offence to “cause or permit” a driver to use a hand-held mobile phone while driving, or to use a hand-held mobile phone while supervising a driver who only has a provisional license.
The penalties were initially a fixed penalty of £30 or a fine of up to £1,000 if the offender goes to court (£2,500 for drivers of goods vehicles or passenger carrying vehicles with 9 or more passenger seats).
From 16th August 2013, the law has been updated and the penalty for using a hand-held mobile phone whilst driving has increased to £100 and three penalty points will be added to the driver’s license.
The Definition of a Hand-Held Mobile Phone
The Regulation includes any “device, other than a two-way radio, which performs an interactive communication function by transmitting and receiving data”.
It states that a “mobile telephone or other device is to be treated as hand-held if it is, or must be, held at some point during the course of making or receiving a call or performing any other interactive communication function”. “interactive communication function” includes:
- sending or receiving oral or text messages;
- sending or receiving facsimile documents;
- sending or receiving still or moving images;
- providing access to the internet
There are two exemptions:
2- way “press to talk” radios, such as used by the emergency services and taxi drivers
Using a hand-held phone for a genuine emergency call to 999 or 112 if it would be unsafe for the driver to stop.
The Definition of Driving
“The Road Vehicles (Construction and Use) (Amendment) (No. 4) Regulations 2003″ defines a person as “driving” even if the vehicle is stationary but the engine is running. The offence will apply to all motor vehicles, including motorcycles, but will not apply to pedal cycles.
The Department for Transport have published an Information sheet, “Mobile Phones and Driving: Frequently Asked Questions” to explain the detail of the law.
Hands-Free Mobile Phones
This law does not ban the use of hands-free mobile phones. Drivers are able to use hands-free phones as long as they keep proper control of their vehicle (i.e. when it’s connected to a handsfree car kit). Careless or dangerous driving laws can be applied to driving while using a hands-free phone, if the police believe the nature of the driving warrants it.
The new law includes an offence of “causing or permitting” a driver to use a hand-held phone while driving. This will, therefore, apply to employers who will be guilty of an offence if they require or permit their staff (who drive for work) to use a hand-held mobile phone while driving.
Recent guidance from the Health and Safety Executive makes it clear that employers have a duty under health and safety law to manage the risks faced by their employees on the road. One of the biggest risks they face is when using mobile phones while at the wheel.
There are good reasons for providing mobile phones to staff who drive for work, especially for lone workers and staff who will be travelling through areas where access to a public phone is difficult. If a member of staff breaks down, for example, they need to be able to summon help. Some Employers provide mobile phones for certain staff and others reimburse the cost of work related calls made on private mobile phones.
Employers would operate within the law if they provided hands-free phones. It is recommended that employers operate sound health and safety policies by providing written instructions to its drivers on the need to drive carefully whilst using hands-free calling.
If an employee is caught using their mobile phone whilst driving, and without a fitted car kit, the employer usually gets the fine and penalty points, not the driver.