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Hands off your mobile to save lives and your licence

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On Friday 25 March 2022, the law concerning mobile phone usage whilst driving was updated. This closed a previous loophole which allowed drivers to use their mobile phones providing it was not for the purposes of communication. The government cited a ‘zero tolerance’ approach as the reason for this tightening of the law.

Under the new rules, a driver can only use a mobile phone if it is ‘hands-free’ - through a windscreen or dashboard mounted holder, a built in Bluetooth system/headset or through voice commands. 

Many concerned parties, such as road safety charity Brake, which supports the families of road crash victims, maintained that the existing law simply had not kept pace with the way in which we use smartphones, so the closing of a dangerous loophole is very welcome.

Kate Price-Marson, serious injury specialist Solicitor in the Shoosmiths serious injury team, said: 

“The Brake website states that reaction times for motorists using their phone while driving are even slower than when driving under the influence of alcohol. Indeed, police figures suggest that motorists who use their phone while driving are four times more likely to be involved in a car accident.”

These sobering statistics were highlighted in the recent case of HRA (by his litigation friend) v KGC. This claim was brought by a son against his mother for personal injuries and losses arising out of the catastrophic injuries which he had sustained in a road traffic accident when the defendant (his mother) had swerved to avoid a vehicle, but in doing so drove across a carriageway and collided with a train on a railway line parallel to the road.

A series of text messages sent by the defendant in short succession prior to the accident showed that she had likely been using her mobile phone and had taken her eyes off the road. The Court held that a reasonably careful driver would have been able to avoid the collision altogether.

Kate Price-Marson remarked:

“This tragic case highlights the devastating effects of what can happen as a result of using a mobile phone while driving. It is now illegal to hold and use a phone, sat nav, tablet, or any device that can send or receive data, while driving or riding a motorcycle. You must not use a hand-held device for any reason - online or offline – unless it’s a genuine emergency call.”

Under the updated law a driver can only use a mobile phone if it is ‘hands-free,’ i.e. through a windscreen or dashboard mounted holder, a built in Bluetooth system/headset or through voice commands, provided the positioning of the device does not block your view of the road and traffic ahead.

Staying in full control of your vehicle is essential. The police will stop you if they think you’re distracted. The fine for using a mobile phone whilst driving remains up to a maximum of £1,000 or six points. New drivers will have their licence revoked if they get that six point penalty within two years of passing the test.

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Disclaimer

This information is for educational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. It is recommended that specific professional advice is sought before acting on any of the information given. © Shoosmiths LLP 2022

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