Hopefully, we all understand that using mobile phones while driving isn’t a good thing.

In fact, research shows that your reaction times whilst using a mobile phone are as much as twice as slow as if you’d been drinking alcohol.

From March 2017, the law which prevents using your phone while driving was beefed up, to send an even clearer signal to motorists that this is an offence which will be taken extremely serious – and now has even more serious consequences.

What has changed?

If you are caught using a mobile phone behind the wheel, you will face:

·         A £200 fine

·         Six penalty points on your licence (half-way to losing your licence altogether)

But, if you’re a new driver (you passed your driving test within the last two years), you have even more to lose – if you are caught using a mobile phone whilst driving, you could lose your licence instantly. That is because, as a new driver, you are only permitted to clock up a maximum of six penalty points (compared to the usual 12) before you licence is revoked. So, it’s one strike and you’re out – use your phone while driving and it could be the last journey you make in a while.

Why is it so dangerous to use a phone behind the wheel?

Ok, so the new ‘punishments’ for using a phone while driving have been toughened up – but of course the real impact of driving whilst distracted in this way are much more serious.

Remember, the real consequences of checking a text, making a call or scrolling through Instagram whilst in charge of a vehicle could be life-changing injury or even death – for you, your passengers or another road user.

It may seem harmless to have a quick glance at your phone when it bleeps – but if you’re driving at 60mph, you’ll travel forward almost 27 metres for every second that your eyes are off the road. If that car or lorry in front of your brakes suddenly, or somebody steps out into the road – could you stop in time?

Twenty-two people were killed and 99 seriously injured in road accidents where drivers were using a mobile phone last year in Britain. You do not want to add to these rather sobering statistics.

What counts as using a mobile phone behind the wheel?

Using a mobile phone behind the wheel isn’t just about texting or making calls. You also need to be careful when playing music or following directions using your device. And the rules apply to any internet enabled handheld device, such as a tablet.

Here’s what you need to know:

·         Even when you are stopped in a traffic jam, you still cannot use your phone – even if you are stationary with your handbrake on. In fact, as long as the engine is running the law applies – even if you are parked in a car park.

·         The only exception to this is if you need to call 999 in an emergency, if it is unsafe or impractical to stop.

Can I still use my phone as a sat nav whilst driving?

If you use your phone as a sat nav, it should be secured in a holder correctly (out of the 45 degree angle of the driver’s view). You must not touch it, or re-programme it whilst driving. And even if you aren’t touching it, be careful – it can still be distracting and if it negatively affects your concentration it could be a factor in a prosecution for careless or dangerous driving. This applies to actual sat navs, as well as mobile devices.

Can I use my phone to play music in the car?

You can use it to play music but you must set this up before you set off and before your engine is running. Once you begin the journey you must not touch the phone once the engine is running – so no scrolling through songs or skipping tracks.

About the author

Tony, approved driving instructor with Progress Driving School

Tony Melling is a DVSA Approved Driving Instructor at Progress Driving School. Learn to drive with Progress and we will help you through your theory test and practical driving test. Enquire now about driving lessons with us in Ashton-in-Makerfield, Atherton, Croft, Culcheth, Garswood, Glazebury, Golborne, Haydock, Leigh, Lowton, Newton-le-Willows, St Helens, Tyldesley and surrounding areas.