Driving arouses contrasting emotions. Some people find jumping at the wheel on a regular basis quite tedious and petulant. Others, instead, enjoy the freedom of whizzing through empty carriageways and steering nimbly from one street to the next. However, it is fair to say that a vehicle handled improperly can turn into a dangerous weapon. Sometimes, it only takes a slight lack of concentration to cause serious damage.
Phones, in this respect, are a prominent source of distraction. We use them all the time during the day, and the temptation to check messages and notifications while driving is also very high. In fact, one third of British motorists have identified other drivers’ use of mobile phones as a top concern.
On 25th March, the UK government introduced tougher rules when it comes to using mobile phones while driving. This also means that, from now on, drivers caught with a cell phone in their hand will face stricter penalties. But what does this new law entail? And, more importantly, will it help reduce road accidents and injuries?
New legislation on using phones while driving
The government has issued new road laws to deter drivers from using their phones while at the wheel. Looking at the stats, it was a much-needed step.
The RAC Report on Motoring 2020 found that roughly 11m Brits (29% of all UK drivers) make or receive calls occasionally when in control of a vehicle. What’s more, an impressive 42% of British motorists confessed that they regularly hand-hold phone calls while their car is stationary and with the engine turned on.
Until the end of March 2022, in theory, the second scenario would not have been viewed as an issue. As the new rules enter into force though, not only is it illegal to phone or text while driving but motorists are not allowed to use their mobiles under (almost) any circumstance.
Actions such as taking photos, filming videos, and scrolling through music playlists, for instance, are no longer permitted. Unlocking the device, checking the time, illuminating the screen, and using recording features are also prohibited by the law too. If caught, the guilty motorist will have to pay a minimum fine of £200.
Penalty fees, however, could reach £1,000 for car and motorcycle drivers, and a pricey £2,500 for bus and lorry drivers. As well as hefty tickets, any motorist breaking the law could also face a six-point deduction from their driving licence. Not to mention a further three penalty points if, at the time of the offence, they have a limited view of the road and traffic ahead or are not in full control of the vehicle. Offenders who have only passed their driving test within the last two years risk losing their licence altogether.
It is important to underline that these penalties apply in many different circumstances. Whether you are queuing in traffic or are stopped at a red traffic light, you must still keep your phone in your pocket. Are you supervising a learner driver? You are not exempt from the new regulations either and should therefore not be scrolling through your phone.
This said, there is one exception, and it refers to drivers making contactless payments with their phones while stationary. This covers places such as a road toll or a restaurant drive-through and only applies when payments are being carried out with a card reader. Of course, you are also allowed to use your phone in situations of emergency and to contact 999.
How the new law keeps our roads safe
The legislation’s main aim is to guarantee safer driving conditions for all British motorists. Using your phone while behind the wheel is a hazard, and can lead to a serious whiplash injury or a fatal accident.
Dialling a number or typing a quick text may not take long, but even the shortest distraction can have long-lasting consequences. Sending or reading a phone message can take your eyes off the road for about five seconds. In the words of the National Highway Traffic Administration (NHTSA), at 55 mph, that would be like cruising the length of a football pitch blindfolded.
What’s more, holding a mobile phone while driving has been found to triple the odds of near-crashes or vehicle accidents. Just talking on the phone can increase the chance of incidents by 30%. This is down to the fact that whoever you are speaking to may not be aware of the road situation and cannot lower their tone to allow you to concentrate in trickier situations. Hence, taking action to reduce the use of mobile phones while in control of a vehicle can truly preserve drivers’ and passengers’ safety.
To help motorists keep off their phones when driving, there are apps that serve to discourage people from checking their notifications. An app called ‘LifeSaver’ adopts GPS monitoring and a rewards system to keep drivers focused on the streets. By blocking the device while in the driving seat, and alerting contacts that you are at the wheel, it ensures that you get from A to B in a safe manner.
With stricter road laws and severe penalties, the UK government is paving the way towards safer streets. Why text or phone while on the road? It is a danger that is simply not worth the risk.