PCC backs campaign to highlight new law around mobile phone use while driving

Suffolk’s PCC, Tim Passmore is joining Suffolk Constabulary in its support of a national THINK! campaign to highlight the recent change in the law in respect of using a mobile phone whilst driving, which carries the key message: “Hands on the wheel? Hands off your phone.”

On 25 March this year it became illegal to use a handheld mobile phone behind the wheel for virtually any use – including to take photos, scroll through playlists or social media accounts and play games.

Beginning on Monday 2 May and running until Sunday 8 May, Suffolk Police will be raising awareness of the new law through education and enforcement.

The minimum penalty if caught driving whilst using a mobile phone is six penalty points and a £200 fine. However, the maximum penalties are a £1,000 fine, six points and a driving ban.

Tim Passmore, Suffolk’s Police and Crime Commissioner, said: “I wholeheartedly support this change in the law for anyone caught using their phone whilst driving.

“Using a mobile phone at the wheel is reckless and costs lives. The safest thing to do is keep your hands on the wheel and your eyes on the road, not on your phone. All cars have a glovebox but I don’t know anyone who keeps gloves in it – so let’s call it a phone box and get into the habit of placing our phones in there when we are driving.

He added: “I know I have said it before, but the best way to improve safety on our roads is for every driver to remember the fatal four and put your phone out of reach, belt up, watch your speed and don’t drink or take drugs if you are going to drive, that shouldn’t be so difficult and it really will make our roads safer for everyone.”

Chief Inspector Jon Chapman, Head of the Joint Norfolk and Suffolk Roads and Armed Policing Team, said: “This new law has closed a loophole in the legislation around using a mobile phone whilst driving, which was originally brought into force at a time before phones had cameras and could be used to browse the internet.

“Mobile phones are now an indispensable part of most peoples’ lives – especially younger people – with many unable to resist the urge to check a message or look at the latest social media post by a friend.

“What everyone needs to be aware of is there are no grey areas in the law now – you cannot hold a phone in your hand whilst driving to follow a map, read or send messages, use the internet, take photos, change music tracks or obviously make or take calls.

“There is an exemption which allows drivers to make contactless payment a drive-thru when stationary. However, it continues to be illegal to use your phone when sat in stationary traffic – whether in a traffic jam or at lights.

“While the emphasis of this campaign is to educate motorists on the law, we will be carrying out enforcement in respect of people caught offending. We have been consistent in highlighting the dangers of using a mobile phone behind the wheel for many years now and our officers have dealt with the consequences of it far too many times, which tragically in some cases have been fatal.

Research shows:

  • You are 4 times more likely to be in a crash if you use your phone.
  • Your reaction times are 2 times slower if you text and drive using a hands-free phone than if you drink drive, and this increases to three times if you use a handheld phone.
  • Even careful drivers can be distracted by a call or text – and a split-second lapse in concentration could result in a crash.
  • At 30mph a car travels 100 feet in 2.3 seconds.

The law:

It is illegal to use a handheld mobile phone or similar device for any purpose when driving. This means you cannot hold a phone or similar device in your hand to follow a map, read and send messages, make or take calls, use the Internet, take a photo, or change a music track.

It is also illegal to use a handheld phone or similar device when supervising a learner driver.

These both apply even if you’re stopped at traffic lights or queuing in traffic.

You can use a handheld phone if you

  • need to call 999 or 112 in an emergency and it’s unsafe or impractical to stop
  • are making a contactless payment at, for example, a drive-thru
  • are parking the vehicle remotely using an App on the phone.
    You should wait until you are safely parked before using a hand-held mobile phone.

If you’re caught using a handheld phone while driving, you’ll get 6 penalty points on your licence, a fixed penalty notice of £200 or a fine of up to £1,000 (or £2,500 if you’re a bus or lorry driver).

You’ll also be risking a driving ban; if you get 6 points in the first two years after passing your test, you will lose your licence.

Using a hands-free device (for example, for navigation) is not a specific offence in the same way as using a hand-held mobile phone. However, if this distracts you and affects your ability to drive safely, you can still be prosecuted by the police.

The consequences:

  • You risk a driving ban
  • Points on your licence leads to higher insurance costs
  • Losing a job