Tough new penalties for drivers using their mobile phones at the wheel are coming into effect from 1 March.
New drivers caught for any kind of use of a phone while driving will face losing their licences.
Fines and points for more experienced drivers will be doubling, meaning a possible six points on your licence as well as a £200 fine.
The law comes after a spate of tragic accidents over the past few years – here’s everything you need to know about the new penalties.
It has been illegal to use a hand-held device while driving or while stopped with the engine on since December 2013. The Department for Transport announced the new penalties in November 2016 and they come into effect on March 1st 2017.
Previous punishment for using a phone while driving was a £100 fine and three penalty points; from March 1st, this doubles. Fines will now stand at £200 and drivers will get six penalty points when caught.
Can I lose my licence?
Yes. If you’ve passed your test in the last two years, you’ll lose your licence straight away. In your first two years as a licensed driver, you can only accrue six penalty points before your licence is revoked – and the penalty for using a phone at the wheel after March 1st is six points.
More experienced drivers can rack up 12 points over three years before losing their license.
If you lose your license, you may be banned for a period of at least six months. To regain your license after that time, you will have to pay for a new provisional license and pass both your theory and practical driving tests again.
Does it count if my phone is on loudspeaker?
Any use of your phone behind the wheel will be punished. That includes making calls (even if you’re using the loudspeaker and the phone isn’t physically in your hands), texting, filming, taking photos or using the internet.
What about hands-free kits?
Use of hands-free kits is still legal; however, pressing any buttons on your phone while driving is not, so you’ll need to be using a proper kit and not just the loudspeaker on your handset.
Can I use my phone at traffic lights or while stopped in a jam?
No. You can’t use your phone at any time while your engine is on or you are on the road.
Are there any exceptions to the rules?
Only during an emergency, when drivers may use a phone to call 999 or 112 if it is unsafe or impractical to stop.
I use my phone as a sat nav, is that still allowed?
Yes, as long as you programme the route before you start the engine and the device is in a holder out of the 45-degree angle of the driver’s view. You must park the car and switch the engine off before reprogramming the device if your route changes.
Why have the penalties changed?
Because driving using a mobile phone is very, very dangerous. Lorry driver Tomasz Kroker was jailed for 10 years after killing four members of the same family when his lorry ploughed into stationery traffic as he was changing the music on his phone last August.
A poll carried out by the AA of over 17,000 Brits found that nearly 71 per cent said that texting while driving is more likely to cause a crash than drink driving.
Nick Lloyd, road safety manager at RoSPA explained, “Taking your eyes off the road to check your phone for just two seconds while travelling at 40mph means you will have travelled for around 40 metres, completely blind.
“During that time a car ahead could have braked or stopped, or a child could have stepped out into the road.”
According to the AA, you are twice as likely to crash text driving than you are drink driving.
Are the penalties the same for bus drivers?
Bus and goods vehicle drivers will face tougher fines than before. If taken to court, you could be fined £2,500 rather than the previous cap of £1,000.