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June 17th 2016

Jane Woodcock

Distracted driving through the eyes of a breakdown patrol officer

Jane Woodcock

Jane Woodcock

Senior Legal Executive and Head of Personal Injury

Distracted driving through the eyes of a breakdown patrol officer

We should all know that since December 2003 driving whilst using a mobile phone is illegal, not to mention incredibly dangerous, yet recent research reveals that more than 500,000 motorists still pick up their phone when behind the wheel.

We should all know that since December 2003 driving whilst using a mobile phone is illegal, not to mention incredibly dangerous, yet recent research reveals that more than 500,000 motorists still pick up their phone when behind the wheel.

Using a mobile phone, whether it be hand-held or hands-free whilst driving holds a significant distraction to the driver and almost certainly increases the risks of crashing or causing an accident. Reports now suggest that using a hand-held device is even more dangerous than drink or drugs where at least 1 in 20 drivers under the age of 30 have been caught flouting the law.

Drivers who use a mobile phone are less aware of what’s happening on the road around them and are up to four times more likely to cause an accident. Even careful drivers can be distracted by a call or text – and a split-second lapse in concentration could result in sometimes very serious road traffic accidents.

We have teamed up with David Hartford, a Breakdown patrol officer, to demonstrate just how prevalent mobile phone use remains whilst behind the wheel of a car. He shares his first hand insight into some of the shocking things he sees on a daily basis whilst out on patrol in the UK and provides some road safety tips to help you stay safe.

Mobile phones – The Law

Using your mobile phone whilst driving has been illegal since December 2003. Below is a list of laws you may not be aware of:

  • It’s illegal to use a handheld mobile when driving.
  • This includes using your mobile phone to follow a map, read a text or check social media. This applies even if you’re stopped at traffic lights or queuing in traffic.
  • You can only use a handheld phone if you are safely parked or need to call 999 or 112 in an emergency and it’s unsafe or impractical to stop.
  • If you’re caught using a handheld phone while driving, you’ll get 3 penalty points on your licence and a fine of £100. Points on your licence will result in higher insurance costs.
  • If you get just 6 points in the first two years after passing your test, you will lose your licence.
  • You may use a hands-free phone while driving but you can still be prosecuted if you’re not in proper control of your vehicle. The penalties are the same as being caught using a handheld phone.
  • The penalties for driving carelessly or dangerously when using a handheld or hands-free phone can include disqualification, a large fine and up to two years imprisonment.
  • *Source: Think! Road Safety – http://think.direct.gov.uk/

Over the years, successful awareness campaigns highlighting the dangers of drink-driving have contributed to its reduction leading to a stigma which increasingly deems it socially unacceptable.

This now has to happen for mobile use. Statistics that show such campaigns can assist to reduce driver reaction times by 35 per cent.

With the number of phone-related crashes rising and dozens of deaths being caused every year, national road safety charity Brake have launched a campaign to introduce new laws banning the use of hands-free phone systems in vehicles.

We support the notion of introducing tougher consequences for mobile use behind the wheel – whether it be texting, calling, filming or surfing social media – it has to become as socially unacceptable as driving after a drink, and should be subject to the stronger punishments in the courts.

Jane Woodcock of Hudgell Solicitors Said: “With drivers continuing to flout the laws around mobile phone use, putting people at risk, the only way to eradicate this danger would be for mobile phones to have to be placed in a closed space, such as the glove compartment when a car is being driven, and for hands-free calls to also be stopped.

“It may seem drastic action, but maybe drastic action is what is needed to get the message through and improve concentration levels behind the wheel.”

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