Updated: May 8
It is unlawful to use/do anything which will prevent you having full control of your vehicle. This could cover wearing flip flops, having a PDA in the windscreen or using a mobile phone. Doing so could lead to being prosecuted for dangerous driving, or driving without due care and attention/ careless and inconsiderate driving. As a licensed driver, your actions will come under increased scrutiny. In addition to any penalty from the Courts or Police, your Council may also take action if they consider you to be no longer a Fit and Proper person to hold a licence.
WHAT IS “DRIVING”?
In the information below the word “driving” means more than just being in charge of the vehicle whilst it is moving. It includes waiting at traffic lights, stuck in traffic and when the autostop is engaged. It may also include when you are waiting for a passenger, such as parked by the kerb with the engine running, but that would be for a Court to decide on based on the exact circumstances.
WHERE CAN I PUT MY DEVICE?
Many drivers put their devices in cradles attached to the windscreen and it is more difficult for drivers who have multiple devices. However, it is an offence to drive and not have a full view of the road and traffic ahead.
Don’t put cradles/phones in “Zone A” of the windscreen (the strip above the steering wheel of 290mm centred on the wheel or over or above airbags). Mount your device low down on your windscreen to the far right to maximise your view of the road. If this isn’t possible, opt for the lowest point in the middle of the windscreen or better still attach it to the dashboard away from the window.
Regulation 104 of the Road Vehicles (Construction and Use) Regulations 1986 - 3 DVLA points and £100 fine from the police.
CAN I HOLD MY MOBILE PHONE WHILST DRIVING?
It is an offence to use a hand-held mobile telephone/PDA whilst driving, for an interactive communication function (sending/receiving data of any sort). That could include using a SatNav, playing music, taking photos and videos and definitely includes accepting jobs from an Operator. You won’t be prosecuted if you are making a 999 call and it is unsafe to stop or if you are using it to remotely park your vehicle. Even if the phone isn’t sending/transmitting data, you could still be prosecuted for the offences mentioned at the start of this article.
Regulation 110 Road Vehicles (Construction and Use) Regulations 1986 - 6 DVLA points and £200 fine.
Many Councils have Licence Conditions which also ban the use of mobile phones whilst driving.
WHAT ABOUT DASHCAMS?
The rules about not blocking your view of the road ahead, also apply to cameras in the vehicle.
WHAT ABOUT SMART WATCHES?
No court cases have yet been heard on this point that I am aware of. However, even if it was not classed as a handheld device, you could still commit other offences as shown above.
PAYING BY PHONE?
Potentially there could be legal issues with using a smart watch/phone to scan/ pay for goods services whilst driving, but it would be a matter for a Court to decide.
CAN I WATCH VIDEOS ON MY PHONE?
It is an offence to watch videos on your device whilst driving. That includes YouTube videos even though you may only be listening to the audio of the video.
Regulation 109 of the Road Vehicles (Construction and Use) Regulations 1986 - £50 fine.
WHAT IS THE POLICE ADVICE?
There is a substantial body of research showing that using a mobile phone whilst driving, even legally via hands-free, is a considerable distraction and greatly increases the risk of a driver being involved in an accident. This is because of the mental distraction and the driver having to divide their attention between taking part in a phone conversation and driving. Therefore, we would suggest that you don't use a mobile phone/device, even hands-free, whilst driving.
The law about the use of mobile phones is being reviewed, so it keeps up with technology and may be changed in the next few months.
PC Patrick QUINTON is a Police Officer who is fully funded by two local Councils to support drivers, enforce the law and ensure compliance with licensing conditions. He has worked with Bristol City and South Gloucestershire Councils for four years. He runs a WhatsApp group for drivers to share information in support of the trade.