Landmark ruling - Using a mobile phone whilst driving

1st August 2019 Driving Offences

Yesterday, the High Court concluded that the current legislation relating to using a mobile phone whilst driving “does not prohibit all use of a mobile phone held while driving„.

Current legislation

The current legislation governing use of mobile phones whilst driving was drafted in the 1980s. As a result the law fails to take into account the advances in technology. This means that the law is open to interpretation allowing drivers to argue that even when a driver has a mobile in their hand they have not committed an offence.

Currently, to secure a conviction, the police have to prove the four elements of the offence:

  1. That you were driving.

  2. That you were on a road.

  3. That you were using the mobile there is no statutory definition of this term. Courts have tended to interpret this to involve an action such as dialling a number, composing a text message and sending or receiving voice messages or photographs and they would all usually be considered using.

  4. That the mobile is handheld the phone must be held at some point during the performance of the interactive communication function.

Recent changes

Last year, a 51 year old gentleman was found guilty of using his mobile phone by the magistrates court. The gentleman was filming an accident using his mobile phone. His lawyers appealed to Isleworth Crown Court for the conviction to be overturned, arguing that the law only bans the use of mobile phones to speak or communicate i.e be “interactive„ The appeal was successful and the Director of Public Prosecutions took the case to the High Court for clarification.

Yesterday, the Director of Public Prosecutions failed to successfully argue that the legislation prohibits all phone use whilst driving. This landmark ruling highlights the legislation has become outdated and has failed to keep up with the technological advances in mobile phones. The case highlights the need for the government to review current legislation.

This test case shows that prosecutions for using a mobile phone are not straightforward and can often be open to challenge. If you are caught using a mobile phone, you should seek legal advice straightaway.

The penalty

Driving whilst using a mobile phone contrary to Section 110 of the Road Vehicles Regulations 1986 carries six penalty points on your licence and a standard fine of £200.

It is dangerous to interact with a mobile phone whilst driving and it is always open to the police to pursue other offences, such as failing to maintain proper control of a vehicle, driving without due care and attention or even dangerous driving.

If you have been caught using your mobile phone, you should contact me on 0345 872 6666 or contact any of my colleagues in the Motoring Offences Department.

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Hojol Uddin is a Partner and Head of Department located in Manchesterin our Driving Offences department

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