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Tougher new mobile phone penalties: what do I need to know?

Penalties for using a mobile phone whilst driving have doubled.  As from today, a driver caught using a mobile when at the wheel will have 6 penalty points imposed on their driving licence instead of the previous 3 points.  Fines imposed will also be doubled from £100 to £200.  The Government has introduced these much tougher penalties in the hope of creating a strong deterrent against drivers who allow themselves to become dangerously distracted behind the wheel.  Research indicates that mobile phone use has become more prevalent despite several high-profile fatal accidents last year, and this prompted the Government to introduce these tougher penalties.

The government is particularly keen to prevent the younger generation from developing this dangerous habit.  Drivers will have their licence revoked if they obtain six penalty points within 2 years of passing their test.  A conviction will therefore mean having to re-sit both the theory and the practical parts of the driving test.  See “new driver offences” for more information.

Experienced drivers who are caught twice for using their mobile phone, or who accrue 12 points on their licence in some other way, will face an appearance in the magistrates court, disqualification and a fine.  Whilst previously in some police force areas motorists could avoid points by taking a remedial driving course for a mobile phone offence, due to the changes today this will no longer be an option because those caught using a mobile phone for the first time will automatically receive penalty points. 

Furthermore, starting today, police forces will be undertaking a seven-day crackdown on mobile phone use by ordering extra patrols on the highways with an “increased focus” as they keep a particular look-out for people committing this offence.

The Government’s road safety group “Think!” and the AA Charitable Trust have created adverts which aim to discourage phone use whilst driving which will be shown on billboards, social media, cinemas and be heard on the radio.  The transport secretary Chris Grayling has said:

“Doubling penalties will act as a strong deterrent to motorists tempted to pick up their phone while driving and will also mean repeat offenders could find themselves banned from our roads if they are caught twice”.

In 2015, 22 people were killed and 99 seriously injured in accidents where a driver was using their phone.

It has been against the law to communicate using a mobile phone while driving since 2003.  The rules are the same even if you are stopped at traffic lights or queuing in traffic with the engine running.  You can only use a handheld phone if you are safely parked or need to call 999 in an emergency where it is unsafe or unpractical to stop.  You also are not allowed to use any internet-enabled device like a tablet.  This also applies when on a motorbike. 

It should be remembered that the use of sat-navs, hands-free kits and any other type of activity such as eating and drinking, smoking, changing music or radio stations, could result in a careless driving or dangerous driving allegation.

Apart from the potentially catastrophic results from accidents caused by driving while using a mobile phone, the loss of a driving licence may have very severe consequences for people’s jobs and lifestyle.  Speeding Law Solicitors have a lot of experience in arguing exceptional hardship with a very high success rate for saving people’s driving licences who have “totted up” 12 penalty points or more.   If you are facing such an allegation, contact us now for a free initial telephone consultation on FREEPHONE 0800 909 8110