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?
The law says it is illegal to use your phone while driving or riding a motorcycle unless you have ‘hands-free’ access to the phone.
That hands-free access can be by using a bluetooth headset, voice command or a dashboard holder. For our helpful guide to choosing a Bluetooth headset, click here.
However, just because a driver buys and uses a hands-free phone holder kit doesn’t excuse them from bad or dangerous driving. Anyone using their phone in hands-free mode must stay in full control of their vehicle at all times. Failing to do so can result in a police prosecution.
What does a phone holder do?
Put simply, a phone holder mounts to a car’s dashboard or windscreen and securely clasps a phone within the driver’s eyeline. They are pretty basic and therefore relatively affordable.
The latest generation smartphones can be controlled by voice commands, or offer a special in-car interface. Drivers may use sat nav apps or make hands-free calls when the mobile is in the holder. However, it is advisable to stop the car in a safe place when reprogramming the navigation.
How much does a phone holder cost?
Prices range from less than £10 to as much as £100. That said, drivers needn’t spend anything like the latter to afford a good quality item.
Where can they be positioned?
There are strict guidelines about where phone holders can be placed inside a windscreen. However, a quick look around suggests many drivers aren’t aware of the laws around ‘windscreen obscuration’. In summary, you can’t place the phone holder within the area of the windscreen that is swept by the wipers if it obscures the driver’s view of the road. However, if it only impairs vision of the sky or bonnet, it’s deemed permissible.
Which are the best mobile phone holders?
Motoring magazine Auto Express tested eight phone mounts. It found that the Olixar CD Slot Mount Car Holder was the best. At £14.99, from Amazon, it is relatively affordable. Drivers who don’t have a CD player in their car, or don’t wish to use it for a phone holder, should try the Olixar Dash Genie V2, which has a suction cup for mounting and costs £12.99. See the full review here.
How dangerous is making a phone call and driving?
Although hands-free calling is permitted when driving, researchers have highlighted the dangers involved. A study by the University of Sussex showed even hands-free phone conversations lead to distraction. Experts found this is caused by the brain visualising the conversation. For example, if your partner rings and asks where you put the shed key, you may have to visualise the kitchen drawer to describe it. And the part of the brain used for this is also employed identifying hazards. This makes the distraction impede your ability to stay safe.