Mobile Phones, Hands-free Options, Road Safety and Enforcement Impact on Drivers and Businesses. How MP's are out of touch with the real world

13th August 2019 Driving Offences

A hands-free ban? Will it work? Have the transport select committee thought about the proposal in detail by obtaining advice from those who understand its needs and requirements? It is my view that MP’s should consider other offences to include drink driving before use of a mobile phone. Using a mobile phone, has evolved more than most offences, and this is due to technological advances, social media and mobile phones being an attachment to most people now (and its use in cars). It is clear it can be a distraction, but is it more or less serious than consuming alcohol and driving. I will let you think about that.

A little history on the evolvement of using a mobile phone. In 2003 the Transport Minister proceeded with the then new offence and stated: The offence will [..] apply to drivers speaking or listening to a phone call, using a device interactively for accessing any sort of data, which would include the Internet, sending or receiving text messages or other images if it is held in the driver’s hand during at least part of the period of its operation.

Since the new legislation came into force it is an offence to use a hand-held mobile phone or other hand-held device while driving, when that device is making or receiving a call or performing any other interactive communication function. In simple terms, if you are holding a device physically in your hand, driving (including being stationary) and transmitting data this would constitute an offence. However, if you are using it in an emergency to phone the police, fire service on an ambulance then this could amount to a defence in law.

The consultation process (before the offence was put into place) made very clear that they did not seek to prohibit the use of a phone in a vehicle as long as the driver was not holding it. The specific response was as follows: We do not wish to prohibit the carrying of hand-held phones in vehicles or require them to be switched off. A phone may therefore continue to be used to receive data when it is in a vehicle providing the driver is not holding it.

Cradles, Apply Car Play, Android hands-free options, buttons on a steering wheel were all considered to promote road safety, but the current publicity suggesting a complete ban appears to be contradictory to the government’s thoughts in 2003. It was made clear in 2003 that the Department did not consider that hands-free phones should be prohibited. Furthermore they made clear that within the context of holding a phone, “pushing buttons on a phone while it is in a cradle or if it is being operated via buttons on the steering wheel or handlebars of a motorbike would not, in our view, breach the new regulation.„

This new consideration will be difficult to enforce (even police now do not know what constitutes an offence) and would no doubt have a detrimental impact on drivers and businesses, and it is clear to me that the practicalities surrounding the ban are not well thought. Perhaps government officials should get off their bicycles (sorry Boris), chauffeur driven vehicles (sorry again Boris) and go out and drive a car, motorbike or get an Uber and see how it works in the real world.

Hojol Uddin Partner and Head of Motoring Department

JMW Solicitors LLP


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

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