New drivers now risk losing their licence if they use their phone behind the wheel.
From March 1st 2017, any driver caught using their mobile behind the wheel will face an immediate £200 penalty and six points on their licence.
This is extra tough on new drivers, because for the first two years after passing your test, receiving six points means your licence can be revoked.
To be able to drive again, you’d need to repeat the process of getting a provisional licence, and passing your theory and practical driving tests.
For more experienced drivers, being caught with your phone twice means you’d lose your licence. The Police are also enforcing more stringent spot checks and surveillance.
So, here’s the Go Girl Guide to staying smart with your smartphone:
Why has this new law been put in place?
The Government wants to clamp down on the increasing numbers of drivers caught using their phones. In 2015, 22 people died and 99 were injured in road accidents where the use of a mobile phone was a “contributory factor”.
Is using a phone that dangerous?
Studies by the Transport Research Laboratory have shown that the reaction times are twice as long for drivers who are texting, than drivers who have been drinking. Just looking at your phone is highly distracting: in 2016, Polish lorry driver Tomasz Kroker killed a family of four when he failed to notice stationary traffic ahead because he was scrolling through the music on his phone.
What does the law actually stipulate?
It is illegal to use a hand-held phone or similar device while driving, or riding a motorcycle.
What about if I’m stopped in traffic?
The rules are the same if you’re stopped at traffic lights or are queuing in traffic. You can only use your phone when your car is safely parked.
What if it’s an emergency?
You can make a 999 or 112 emergency call if it would be unsafe or impractical to stop the car. You can’t claim that texting a friend or family member is an “emergency”, however.
Can I make and receive calls?
The Police are taking an ever-stricter stance on this, as they believe that phone calls are distracting. Technically yes, you can use your phone to take a call when it is mounted into a hands-free kit. But don’t forget it has been illegal to touch your phone while driving since 2003. So you cannot touch the screen to answer or reject calls.
What about Sat Nav?
The same applies here – you can use a Sat Nav mounted into a hands-free kit, but you are not allowed to touch it. So you must plot or adjust your route only when you’re safely parked.
Can I use apps?
No, nor can you watch videos. Not even on a hands-free mount.
Can I listen to music?
You can, but only through a Bluetooth connection. You should set the music at the start of your journey and not touch the screen when driving or in traffic to change songs.
What about in my friend’s car?
Passengers can use their phones. But anyone caught using their mobile while supervising a learner driver is breaking the law.
We know that the information super highway is addictive — but keep your eyes on the REAL highway when you’re driving. Don’t text your way out of a licence. If you lose your licence or received a penalty fine, your insurance premiums could cost a lot more in the future. So save your money, and your or someone else’s life, and keep the phone out of sight.