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The law on using mobile phones whilst driving has changed

In 2003 the government introduced legislation in the Road Traffic Act 1988 so that if you are caught by the Police using a mobile telephone (in the hand) whilst driving you would receive three penalty points on your licence and a fine of approximately £100. The intention of the legislation was to discourage drivers from using their phones whilst driving which research shows is a major cause of road traffic incidents. However the act has not dissuaded drivers from stopping using their phone whilst driving.

In an effort to be more effective the penalties for breaking the law have been changed. As of the 1 March 2017, if you are caught using your mobile phone whilst driving, the penalty will be increased to 6 penalty points on your licence and a fine of £200.

Drivers need to be aware that if 12 penalty points are accrued within a three year period, the courts have no choice but to disqualify you from driving for a period of six months. Which can be life changing. It can affect your home life, work and professional circumstances and involves attending court which is a difficult experience and increases the financial costs in respect of the offence.

With many people driving with penalty points already on their licence the addition of six points for this offence is likely to see many people in court realising that their livelihoods are a risk.

The doubling of the points in respect of this offence gives a clear message that the police and government take the offence of driving whilst using your phone more seriously than other traffic offences which carry lesser points.

Although the legislation is clear that once a driver accrues 12 points the driver will be disqualified, the driver does have the opportunity once in three years to argue that exceptional hardship would be caused to them or another if they lost their licence. The threshold test for exceptional hardship is a high one, for example just losing one’s job does not qualify.

Drivers need to be aware that ‘using a phone’ constitutes talking into it as well as doing other things such as checking the time. In other words any handling of a phone whilst driving is ‘using a phone’. The safest way to use a phone in the car is hands free and in a cradle.

If you do find yourself in this position than then you are well advised to seek expert advice from a solicitor specialising in traffic law. Hunt and Combs solicitors have an excellent record in succeeding with exceptional arguments on the basis that they are properly prepared and presented to the court in the manner which allows the magistrates to exercise their discretion.

For further help and legal advice on motoring offences or any other area of criminal law please contact our Crime & Motoring Team on 01733 882800 or email [email protected].

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