Motorists caught using mobile phones while driving now face double the penalty.
Since Wednesday, March 1, police have been able to slap drivers caught using their phones with a £200 fine and six points on their licence – the previous penalty was three points and a £100 fine.
The new legislation also means offending drivers will no longer be offered a training course named the National Driver Offender Retraining Scheme (NDORS) as an alternative to receiving points.
And the biggest impact will be for new motorists, as young drivers and those who have passed their tests within the past two years could have their licence revoked after their first offence.
Inspector Steve Griffiths, from Cheshire’s Roads Policing Team, said: “As a senior investigator, I have dealt with many serious and fatal collisions, and in recent years I’ve found that increasingly more of these incidents have involved mobile phones. Motorists are four times more likely to crash if using a mobile phone while driving. Using a handheld mobile device can make drivers less aware of what is happening on the road – they could fail to see road signs, react more slowly and take longer to brake.
“It is vital that we educate motorists on the dangers of driving while using a handheld mobile device, and the impact this new legislation will have on those who continue to flout the law.”
Officers caught more than 100 people using their mobile phones illegally during a week-long operation of increased patrols to catch offenders.
Drivers were issued with a penalty notice and officers took the opportunity to educate motorists of the dangers of using a handheld mobile device while driving and the consequences they will face.
Police and Crime Commissioner for Cheshire, David Keane said: “I’m sure the public will be reassured to see the work the roads policing team have been doing.
“Driving while using a handheld mobile device is dangerous and the fact that officers stopped over 100 drivers during the campaign shows that we continue to have an issue.
“From March those who break the law will face severe penalties and the constabulary will have my full support as they work to enforce the new legislation and keep us safe. My message is clear – driving while distracted should be as socially unacceptable as drink or drug driving.”
Can I still use a hands free device?
Hands free for calling is permitted when used safely, through technology such as Bluetooth and in-car voice activation. However, you must ensure that you are in proper control of your vehicle.
Can I use my mobile phone whilst in stationary traffic or at traffic lights?
No, under the legislation you cannot use a handheld mobile phone even if you’re stopped at traffic lights or queuing in traffic. This includes holding and using your mobile to make a call, look at a text or check social media.
Can I still use my mobile phone as a sat-nav?
Yes, you can still use your mobile phone for navigation. However, it must be hands free and should be securely mounted in a cradle.
Does this legislation only apply to mobile phones?
The legislation applies to mobile phones or other "interactive communications devices”. However, it’s important to remember that driving requires 100% concentration at all times, otherwise you are putting your own life and everybody else's in danger.
If it is deemed that a driver is not in proper control of the vehicle due to a distraction then they can be issued with a TOR (Traffic Offence Report) and will receive 3 penalty points and a £100 fine.
Distractions whilst driving include:
Eating and drinking
Manipulating controls in the car (music, heating dials)
Reading or writing
Leaning over to the other side of the car (to soothe passengers).
Inputting details into a sat-nav
Use of smart watch
Are you aloud to drive with iPhone headphones in both ears?
Headphones don’t fall under the mobile phone legislation. Drivers must always be in proper control of their vehicle. Headphones fall under the hands free category as long as the phone it is attached to is in a suitable cradle.
Am I breaking the law if I use my handheld mobile phone to call 999 in an emergency?
There is an exemption if you are calling 999 in a genuine emergency and of course it must still be safe to do so and not put other people at risk
Can a driving instructor or supervising driver use a mobile phone while supervising a learner driver?
It is illegal to use a handheld phone or similar device when supervising a learner driver.