what you can and cannot do with a mobile phone when driving – the results are in!

Over the past 10 days we have taken to twitter to test the public’s knowledge in relation to the use of a mobile phone in a vehicle and the results are surprising.

Question 1 - I used Apple Pay at a drive through restaurant, have I committed an offence?

  • Yes 63%
  • No 38%
  • Don’t know 0%

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Answer - The public erred on the side of caution on this one. There have been media reports that suggest you are committing an offence unless you engine is switched off and your handbrake is applied. However we think that in most cases there is an argument firstly that "a drive through" is not a road and secondly while you are stationary you are not actually driving. We have successfully defended cases in similar circumstance, but every case will be different which is why you should seek expert advice.

Question 2 - I am a taxi driver and received my jobs via an app on my phone, am I committing an offence?

  • Yes 38%
  • No 38%
  • Don’t know 24%

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Answer - Well the public were split on this one. But in fairness the answer depends on whether you are holding the phone or not. If the phone is cradled and static in a dashboard holder you should be OK. But, you must remember that section 104 of The Road Vehicles (Construction and Use) Regulations 1986 stipulates that you must “have proper control of the vehicle or have a full view of the road and traffic ahead”. If you cause an accident whilst using a mobile phone, then you face the risk of prosecution for driving without due care and attention or careless driving or dangerous driving where the standard of driving falls well below that than can be expected of a reasonably competent driver. Accidents that result in death or injury attract serious penalties with prison sentences of up to 14 years.

Question 3 - Is playing a podcast on a smart phone illegal in your car?

  • Yes 67%
  • No 33%
  • Don’t know 0%

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Answer - Most of the public got this one wrong. In fact it is not illegal to play a podcast from your phone when driving providing you don’t hold your phone. If you start playing a podcast before you start the engine either through a wired or Bluetooth connection, or even through the speakers on the phone, you are doing nothing wrong. You only “use” your mobile phone if you handle it when driving. We would also advise that your phone is placed inside a dashboard mounted cradle too.

Question 4 - Has the law recently changed in relation to using a mobile phone when driving?

  • 83% Yes
  • 17% No
  • 0% Don’t know

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Answer - Again the public were confident with their answers and nobody answered that they didn’t know. 83% of people said that they thought that the law had changed, unfortunately they were wrong. The law hasn’t changed in relation to mobile phone use, although the penalties have from the 1st March 2017 the fixed penalty has increased to £200 and you are now liable to receive 6 penalty points rather than 3. If you are taken to Court you can expect to receive a fine of up to £1,000 (or £2,500 if you are driving a lorry or bus). If you are a new driver you will be banned from driving but even if you are an experienced driver, if you are caught twice in a 3 year period you will receive 12 penalty points and face disqualification under the totting scheme.

Question 5 - I use my phone as a Sat Nav Device in the car, am I committing an offence?

  • Yes 63%
  • No 38%
  • Don’t know 0%

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Answer - Almost two thirds of the public voted that they thought it is an offence to use your phone as a Sat Nav device. That rather prompts the question why would phone and app builders develop such software if it is illegal. The answer is that it is not, providing (as in Q2 above) the phone is cradled in a dashboard holder and you are in full control of your vehicle at all times.

Burton Copeland solicitors based in Manchester are experts in all road traffic offences, if you have questions or need advice, please do not hesitate to contact us by using this link or call us on 0161 827 9500 and ask for Gwyn, Nick or Lisa