Distracted driving

Technology is playing an ever-increasing role in our lives and offers us almost endless opportunities to learn and communicate with each other across the globe. This unfortunately means there are also countless alerts, notifications, alarms, tweets, posts, calls, texts, chats and likes to grab our attention, when it would be best-placed elsewhere.

Unsurprisingly, society’s addiction to mobile phones presents a major problem on the road, as drivers ‘fear of missing out’ (‘FOMO’) leads them to check their messages or social media accounts whilst in control of their car.

According to the RAC Report on Motoring 2017, 40% of drivers said that handheld mobile phone use is one of their top 4 motoring concerns.

Driving phone rules - the law regarding using your mobile phone while driving

The law states that:

  • It is illegal to use a handheld mobile phone when are you driving. This includes texting, checking social media and using your mobile phone to follow a map. These rules also apply whilst you are stationary waiting in traffic.
  • You are only permitted to use your mobile phone if you are safely parked (with the engine off) or need to call 999 or 112 in an emergency and it is too dangerous to stop. 
  • The use of hands-free mobile phones is permitted while driving, but if you are not in control of your vehicle you can still be prosecuted.

For more information visit using a phone or sat nav while driving.


What if you need to use your phone while in the car?

UK law states that it is illegal to hold or use a phone or sat nav while driving or riding a motorbike. Hands-free access must be used for such devices, and the device must not interfere or block your view of the road and traffic ahead of you.

You could consider using:

  • A Bluetooth headset
  • Voice command
  • A dashboard holder or mat
  • A windscreen mount
  • A built-in sat nav

Alternatively, you could try the following:

  • Storing your mobile device out of reach and out of sight, in the glove box or in a bag
  • Switching your phone off, or muting alerts and notifications, so you aren’t tempted to read or respond to them
  • Enable your phones ‘Do Not Disturb’ feature – this will automatically activate when your phone senses driving motion or connects to your car Bluetooth 
  • Using a Faraday pouch – these clever little bags cut electronic signals to your phone while you’re driving
  • Phone lock app – download one of these to your smartphone and you can set it to lock your phone while you drive, preventing you from using it

Penalties for driving while using a mobile phone

The law will hand out 6 penalty points and a £200 fine to anyone driving a car while using a mobile phone. The punishment is even worse for anyone who has passed their test less than 2 years ago – they’ll also lose their licence.

If you don’t have full view of the road and traffic ahead, or proper control of your vehicle, you could end up with 3 penalty points.

You can also be taken to court where you can be banned from driving or riding, and/or get a maximum fine of £1,000 (£2,500 if you’re driving a lorry or a bus).

Other distractions you should be aware of

Some of the other common distractions to avoid when driving are:

  • Playing loud music, as this may drown out other sounds
  • Reading maps
  • Adjusting the in-car sound system
  • Arguing with passengers or other road users
  • Drinking and eating
  • Smoking

Not all distractions can be avoided when out in the car though, such as restless children or unexpected poor weather conditions. Make sure you plan ahead and take adequate breaks in these situations.

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