April 27, 2017

Mobile phones and penalty points – the new rules

new van

The British Government has announced that drivers caught operating a handheld mobile device will face ‘severe penalties’, starting from 2017.

Under new rules scheduled to come into force next year, any driver caught using a mobile phone, tablet, laptop or similar device will receive a £200 fine as well as SIX penalty points – double the current penalties.

This means that new drivers (those that passed their driving test less than two years prior to being caught) will lose their licence immediately and have to retake their driving test. Furthermore, drivers who have passed the two-year threshold would be banned if caught using a mobile device a second time.

The Government plans to launch a THINK! campaign to address the issue of handheld mobile phone use while driving, which the RAC says is now “at epidemic proportions”. The aim of the campaign is to make using a mobile phone while driving socially unacceptable, like drink driving or not wearing a seatbelt.

Secretary of State for Transport Chris Grayling said: “As technology develops, mobile phones are common place, but we need to take responsibility for our actions and as drink or drug driving has become socially unacceptable, so must using mobile phones at the wheel. It may seem harmless when you are replying to a text, answering a call or using an app, but the truth is your actions could kill and cause untold misery to others.”

The law

The law states that “it is illegal to use a hand-held mobile phone or similar device while driving a car or riding a motorcycle, including when stopped at a red light or when queuing in traffic. It’s also illegal to use a mobile device when supervising a learner driver or rider”. The law has not changed, but the penalties involved will be harsher.

The current rules

If you were caught using your mobile device whilst driving on your journey home today, you can expect an automatic fixed penalty notice issuing a £100 fine and three penalty points. In some cases, you may be summoned to court where you could face a maximum fine of £1000. If you happen to drive a Bus or HGV then the maximum fine is a whopping £2500.

The new rules

Put simply, the penalties have doubled. So, this means that from 2017, the fine will be £200 and you’ll receive six points on your licence instead of three. Drivers with over two years’ experience who have been caught for a second time will earn themselves a court appearance, a fine of up to £1000 and a driving ban of six months or more. New drivers (those with less than two years’ experience) will automatically lose their licence the first time they are caught and would have to reapply for a provisional licence and retake their driving test.

How to use mobile phones and drive – legally

You can use a mobile phone while driving if:

  • Your phone is in a cradle or dock, but you may only press a single button to accept calls when your vehicle is moving.
  • Your phone is connected to a hands-free system; although the police can still charge you for careless or dangerous driving as well as driving without due care and attention if they feel that your driving is affected by using it.
  • You need to make an emergency call to 999 or 112, if you have witnessed an accident, for example. Remember, it is only legal to do so while driving if it is unsafe to pull over and stop to make the call. This rule only applies in England and Wales.

Road safety spokesman Pete Williams said: “The Government’s swift action to the findings in the RAC Report on Motoring shows they understand just how dangerous it can be to use a handheld mobile phone at the wheel. Increasing the fine from £100 to £200 and doubling the penalty points from three to six will help to deter people from doing it in the first place. However, it is just as important that laws are seen to be enforced, and the decline in the numbers of dedicated road traffic police has only heightened the feeling that those who use a handheld phone while driving simply get away with it.”