Warning over mobile phones in cars

By Stuart YoungsTHE ban on using a mobile phone while driving begins on Monday although there will be a two-month grace period until the new penalties kick in.

By Stuart Youngs

THE ban on using a mobile phone while driving begins on Monday although there will be a two-month grace period until the new penalties kick in.

The punishments for holding a handset to make a call when in the car will not be put into effect until February "in order to assist in the education of drivers" the Association of Chief Police Officers said yesterday.

However, officers will be able to impose the new fines on anyone who they believe to have caused serious potential danger or to have contributed to a collision as of Monday.

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Anyone caught using a hand-held mobile phone while driving will face a fixed penalty of £30 or, if convicted in court, a fine of up to £1,000 plus three points on their driving licence.

And, in the case of drivers of goods vehicles or vehicles adapted to carry nine or more passengers a fine of £2,500 could be imposed.

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"While driving" includes, beyond the obvious definition, sitting in the car while it is stationary with the engine running.

The sole exception will be when making 999/112 emergency calls where it is unsafe to stop to make the call.

If you think a hands-free set is the easy way around the new law, think again.

The police will stop motorists who use hands-free kits if they think they are driving without due care and attention. The offender can then be dealt with under existing laws.

Employers too should pay attention to the fact that it is an offence for them to encourage staff to use their mobile phones when driving. Motorists should not feel obliged to answer, or make work-related phone calls when in transit.

So, if you are an employer and your staff drive for work purposes, you will need to review your risk management procedures to include policies on mobile phone use that reflect the new laws.

However, motorists can make calls if the phone is sitting in a cradle on the dashboard so long as they are not holding the phone.

There are easier ways to avoid falling foul of the law.

Suffolk traffic police head, Chief Inspector Alan Pawsey, offered some advice.

He said: "Turn your phone off before you start your journey, give your full attention to the road while you are driving, and don't turn it back on until you are parked safely and able to deal with your calls and messages."

On top of this advice Ch Insp Pawsey signalled his approval of the new crackdown.

He said: "We welcome the new regulations which we hope will have an impact on the number of road traffic collisions on our counties roads.

"It has been shown that a driver is four times more likely to be involved in a collision when using a mobile phone.

"We hope that banning the use of hand held mobiles by drivers of vehicles will play its part in cutting the number of such incidents on our roads."

And, while Suffolk Police begin their purge on this offence, Suffolk County Council has delivered this safety message: "Switch off before you drive off."

The county council will be using two giant mobile phones bearing this safety message to remind drivers of the new restrictions.

Peter Monk, a member of the county council's executive committee, said: "Research clearly shows that using any type of phone while driving, affects your concentration and increases the risk of accident.

"The problem is not the type of phone but the distraction caused by having a conversation and we strongly advise drivers to switch off their phones: no conversation or message is worth risking your safety and that of other people.

"Our campaign is also targeting businesses because studies show that more than 75% of drivers who use a mobile phone also use a company car.

"We recommend a clear company policy that advises staff not to make or receive calls while driving."

As a result the county council has sent information to 5000 businesses throughout the county, as well as publicity material to libraries, primary care trusts and parish councils.

The over-riding message is clear – if you feel you really must make or receive phone calls, stick to using a hands-free kit with a cradle, keep conversation brief but keep your eyes and concentration focused on the road ahead.


Can I cradle the phone on my shoulder?

No - you will still be seen as holding the phone.

What about texting?

Texting is not allowed with a hand held mobile.

Do I have to switch my phone off?

Phones can be left on in a car but unless you have hands-free kit you must pull in and park safely before answering.

What if I'm waiting at traffic lights?

You are still considered to be driving. The same interpretation applies if you are stuck in a traffic jam.

What about an emergency call?

There is an exemption for 999/112 calls to the emergency services where it is unsafe or impractical to stop.

I've got to use a phone for my job

If your boss insists that you take calls while driving he or she could also be breaking the law and you will still be liable for a penalty.

What about CB radio?

Two-way radio is not covered by the law. Two-way radios that double up as mobiles will not be allowed though.

Where can I find further information?

Useful websites on the new mobile phone legislation include: www.brake.org.uk, www.DfT.gov.uk, www.rospa.com, and www.thinkroadsafety.gov.uk.

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