3. Using a mobile phone behind the wheel

It’s for these reasons using a mobile phone behind the wheel has become such a hot topic for a lot of road safety experts. With mobiles serving to distract your three key senses needed for driving, stringent rules have been introduced to prevent them from causing fatal collisions.

The law and what it means to you

With mobile phones becoming more prevalent at the turn of the century, it was only natural laws would be brought in to counteract the continuing negative impact they were having on driving. As such, since December 2003 it has been illegal in the UK to use a handheld phone when driving.

Until March 2017, the penalties for being caught using a phone while driving were:

  • A £100 fine
  • 3 points on your driver’s license

However, with reforms made to the law at the aforementioned time, the new penalties mean you’ll receive:

  • A £200 fine
  • 6 points on your driver’s license

This outright doubling of the penalty means that anyone who is caught driving while using a mobile phone, who has also only legally been allowed to drive for two years, will instantly lose their license – as a result of the limit being set at six points for new drivers in this time frame.

It’s important to also note this law only applies to handheld devices. In the case of hands-free phones, you are allowed to use these at any time without facing repercussions. This means you can still take calls or chat to someone, so long as you’re able to easily access the device without it distracting or disrupting your natural driving rhythm.

Receiving texts and calls

Texting and calling on your phone while driving will naturally result in you receiving one of these aforementioned penalties. It might surprise you to learn however, it’s not just you who could receive a fine if you’re caught using your phone at the wheel.

Employers can also face prosecution if any of the following scenarios apply:

  • They force you to take a call or reply to a text which results in you not having proper control of the wheel
  • They force you to make a call or send a text while driving
  • You’re driving dangerously as a result of using a phone which has been installed by your employer

If you’re found to be calling or texting while you drive, you will instantly be slapped with the £200 fine and 6-point penalty. However, there are two very important exceptions to this rule:

  • You can make calls to emergency numbers, such as 999 or 112, so long as you’re able to quickly pull over and are not parked in a position where it’s impractical to stop
  • You are allowed to also communicate using a two-way radio – although this is the only device which sends or receives audio which is permitted

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the numbers are deadly when it comes to texting and driving:

  • 97% of teens know they shouldn’t text while they drive, but 43% do anyway
  • 213 teens will die annually because of texting while they drive
  • The risk of a crash is increased by 23% when someone is texting at the wheel
  • Reaction time when texting is said to slow by 35% – a number which is equivalent to three times the legal drinking limit
  • You can expect to receive 14 years in prison if you accidentally take someone’s life while texting at the wheel

Such is the necessity to raise awareness of the dangers of driving with a mobile, the AA have started a campaign – #NeverTextDrive – which has spent the last year aiming to change the attitudes young people have towards texting and driving. Check out the video which kicked off the campaign below:

How to stop your phone use at the wheel

We understand sometimes it might feel like you absolutely have to use your phone when behind the wheel, but it isn’t actually the case. The temptation to check your mobile every time it pings or dings might seem unbearable, but there are measures you can take to ensure you aren’t finding your attention wandering.

Some useful tips for counteracting the problem of a mobile’s allure include:

  • Turning your phone onto silent mode
  • Putting the mobile out of reach (such as in the trunk or a glove compartment)
  • Turning your mobile phone off altogether

If these preventative measures really aren’t enough, you can even go to the extreme lengths of downloading an application for your phone which prevents you from texting while you’re driving. These types of applications come in two different forms:

1)Speed monitors – these apps are typically used by parents who are concerned about the dangers of texting and driving for their teenage children. They see a small device attached to the car (usually under the dashboard) which feeds back information to the app on the phone. Certain speeds will prevent the phone from receiving and sending calls and texts.

2)Outright blockers – These are a lot less complicated, as they simply prevent your phone from being able to receive texts or calls at the flick of a button. This type of measure will naturally rely on you having the will power to turn the app on and off – which is why this variant is used by older drivers.

Naturally, some calls and texts are more important than others – which means blocking every message that’s coming in doesn’t always work as a strategy. If you’re in a position where you simply have to reply to someone, your best bet is to do one of the following:

  • Let a call go to voicemail and reply to it at the next available opportunity (where you can stop safely)
  • If you have a hands-free phone, answer quickly and then let them know you’ll call them right back as soon as you have a chance to stop

If you need to call while driving, consider:

  • Are you currently in motion?
  • Are you in a safe position to talk?
  • When you call back the other person, are they likely to be on the phone?

However you approach this difficult task, you should be able to make significant steps towards cutting your mobile phone usage behind the wheel to zero. This dangerous practice has, and while it carries on will continue to, cost lives.