March 2017 saw the introduction of new legislation in relation to using mobile phones behind the wheel. It is now illegal to use your mobile phone whilst driving or riding a motorbike, unless you have hands-free access.
This includes stopping at traffic lights and queuing in traffic. If your engine is on, your phone must not be in your hand.
If caught you can now get 6 penalty points on your licence and a £200 fine. This means, for any drivers within their probationary period, they will lose their licence.
It has taken some time to come to this point and a lot of research has been done in to the potential hazards the use of a mobile phone poses. We have all seen drivers with one hand on the wheel and one hand to their ear. According to research drivers are four times more likely to have a crash if using a mobile phone, are slower at recognising and reacting to hazards on the road and shockingly, reaction times are two times slower if you text and drive than if you drink and drive! So, in relation to road safety this new law is a welcome addition to current road traffic laws.
But what if you use your phone as a satnav? Many people do. Well, as long as it is hands-free then it is still legal. However, if it still distracts you, and you are caught driving dangerously then you could still be prosecuted by the police.
So what is the best course of action? Ideally, leave your phone in your bag or in the glove compartment. However, if you must use the pre-programmed satnav then it is recommended you attach it to your dashboard so you can remain hands-free. You can buy the in-car kits in your local petrol station. If you have Bluetooth then you can set it to direct you through the speakers in your car without the necessity to hold your phone. This is what many taxi drivers do. And should the satnav send you off in the wrong direction and need resetting, pull over to a safe place, switch your car off and then reset it.
Happy hands-free driving in 2017.