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The mobile phone laws explained

View profile for Michael Pace
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Tough New Penalties are a Cause for Concern

Quite rightly the police and the media have been highlighting the tough new penalties for using a mobile device while driving or riding a motor vehicle.
In a week-long campaign by the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC), just after the new penalties came into force, 16 people were stopped in Lincolnshire and 15 in Nottinghamshire.
The law on using a mobile phone while driving has been around for some time now and has not changed. However, the penalty has been increased from three penalty points to six and the fixed penalty fine has been increased from £100 to £200. In addition, motorists will no longer be offered the opportunity to go on a driver awareness course
So, what is the law? The offence is committed if you hold a mobile phone while making or receiving an interactive communication when driving.
This means quite simply making or receiving a phone call, making or receiving a text or searching the internet. The latter can include holding the phone to look at an interactive satnav.
If the phone is in a holder and all you have to do is touch it to answer or make a call then you are not committing a mobile phone offence. This is where you must be careful though, because other offences like careless driving can apply.
If you are using your phone as a satnav, and it is mounted in a proper holder, it could be deemed to be careless driving if you are seen making a number of inputs to the satnav while driving such that you are distracted. Different penalties will apply here.
The new penalty for phone use can and will have a serious effect on anyone caught within two years of passing their driving test. This is because the law clearly states that if any driver gets to six or more points within two years of passing their driving or motorcycle test, then the DVLA will revoke the licence and the person will be back to a provisional licence until they have passed both the theory and practical test. 
There is no appeal against this process. You will receive a letter from the DVLA giving you a date from which your licence is revoked. If you then drive without L plates and a supervising driver you will commit further offences.
The best advice is, as the Government’s THINK! campaign says, when you are driving make your glove compartment your phone compartment and remove the temptation to use or check your phone while driving. However, if you are alleged to have committed a mobile offence, take legal advice from a specialist motor law solicitor or a reputable firm.