In 2016, Prime Minister Theresa May vowed to make using a phone when driving as unacceptable as drink-driving. Last April, tougher penalties were introduced to deter phone use at the wheel.
But since then, more than 200 drivers a day have been prosecuted for using their phone while driving. That means they’ve been slapped with six points on their licence and a £200 fine.
Some drivers complain they find the law confusing around the areas of making calls while driving and using a phone as a sat nav device. Many reason this confusion comes from being told it’s okay to use a phone while driving when it’s in hands-free mode.
This is what motorists need to know to stay on the right side of the law. As importantly, it will help keep them and other road users safe.
The law: hands-free phone use
Smartphones are an important aid for drivers. The devices help us find our way from A to B, let us make important calls, and help long journeys pass faster by providing in-car entertainment.
But since 2003, it’s been illegal to handle a phone while driving. And in March 2017, tougher penalties were introduced for drivers caught in the act, with a £200 on-the-spot fine and six penalty points. The move was aimed at addressing a rise in the number of fatal road accidents in some parts of the UK.
However, we can still use the convenient features on our smartphones – if they’re fitted to an in-car phone holder. Here’s how to stay safe and on the right side of the law.
What is the law on using phones in-car?
Mobile phones have come a long way since the first call was made using one in the 1970s. Then, the Motorola handset used weighed more than a kilogram and could only make calls for 30 minutes before the battery needed charging for… 10 hours.
Today’s smartphone is packed with features, making it a computer, camera, music and media player, games console, diary and so much more besides. Many sync with a car and give the driver control through a touchscreen or voice commands. However, such features can be a dangerous distraction.
That’s why it’s important every driver knows how to enable the ‘Do Not Disturb When Driving’ mode. Earlier this month, Apple announced a bespoke safety feature for iPhones, to tackle the growing problem of driver distraction. And Google Android phones also offer a do not disturb setting. Here’s how to set them up and stay safe behind the wheel.
Keep your eyes on the road and hands on the wheel with voice-activated smartphone kits
The law on mobile phone use in cars changed at the beginning of March. The penalty for drivers caught phoning or texting without being hands-free has doubled, to six points with a £200 fine. But there’s no need to be hit with a costly fine and hefty points. There’s plenty of aftermarket equipment that will keep drivers on the right side of the law and safe on the road.
Bluetooth integration for mobile phones first made its way into our cars in 2001. For years, it remained an option that drivers would have to pay for with their new car. These days, it’s widely available as standard.
For anyone driving an older car without Bluetooth, there is a wide range of products to choose from, some offering much more than just wireless connection to a phone.