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Using your mobile behind the wheel: know the facts

calendar Published on: Thursday, 23rd November 2017 | female icon Author: Aminta Gagnon

We live in a digital world in which a lot of us rely on our mobile phones throughout the day, whether itís to call a family member, text a friend, post on Facebook or check work emails. While youíre free to check your mobile pretty much whenever you want, thereís one situation in which you definitely shouldnít - and thatís while youíre driving your car.

While you might think you can get away with it, there are a whole host of reasons why you shouldnít even so much as glance at your mobile when youíre behind the wheel. To help you brush up on the facts associated with using your phone while youíre out and about, keep reading.

How using your phone can affect your driving

Itís no secret that using your phone when youíre on the road is extremely dangerous - but just how does it affect your ability to drive? Below, we take a look at some of the ways this bad habit can impact on you while youíre behind the wheel.

Itís distracting

Thereís no escaping the fact that using your phone when youíre driving is distracting. After all, it requires you to focus on two Ďthinkingí tasks at the same time, which is something the brain is not designed to do effectively. So, even if you think youíre a skilled multi-tasker, itís important to put your phone away while youíre driving.

Itís visually impairing

When you glance down at your mobile, youíre taking your eyes off the road. Even if itís just for a couple of seconds, youíre letting whole stretches of road go by that youíre not paying attention to, increasing your chances of having an accident.

Looking at your phone means that you could fail to spot road signs and traffic lights, and you could fail to notice that the car in front of you has slowed down or stopped. You could end up drifting across lanes, and you may even fail to spot pedestrians or cyclists. A quick glance at your mobile phone could have catastrophic consequences, so itís best to simply avoid looking at it altogether.

Itís more dangerous than drink driving

Did you know that youíre twice as likely to have an accident if youíre texting while driving than if you are drink driving? In a study carried out by the Transport Research Laboratory in 2002, it was discovered that some aspects of a driverís performance are impaired more by using a phone rather than a blood alcohol level at the legal limit. The study revealed that the reaction time of someone texting and driving is 2.8 times greater when compared to someone at the drink-drive limit in England and Wales.

What the law says

It is illegal to use a handheld mobile device while driving. This includes holding the phone to make a call, looking at it to read a text message and checking social media. Itís also important to note that this includes when youíre stopped at traffic lights or in a queue. In a nutshell, if you so much as press a single button on your phone while youíre driving, you are considered to be breaking the law.

If youíre found to be using your phone behind the wheel, you can expect to pay the price. As of March 2017, the penalty is six points on your driving licence and a £200 fine. If you passed your test within the last two years, you will lose your licence and have to take the test again.

Even if your phone is in a cradle, you should be careful. If youíre using your device as a sat nav, touching the screen could be too distracting. This is considered to be Ďnot in proper controlí or Ďdriving without due care and attentioní, both of which you could receive a penalty for. For example, the penalty for Ďnot in proper controlí is a £100 fine and three points on your licence.

However, if the police believe the offence is so bad that this penalty is not enough, you could be summoned to court. If taken to court, you can expect to pay much greater fines, with the maximum charge being £1,000 or £2,500 if youíre driving a bus or goods vehicle.

Aside from being requested to pay a hefty fine, you could also be prosecuted for careless or dangerous driving. If someone has been killed, you could even be prosecuted for causing death while careless or dangerous driving.

If a death has occurred, prison is almost certain. Recently, the Ministry of Justice concluded a discussion to increase the maximum prison sentence for causing death by dangerous driving from 14 years to life imprisonment.

Top tips: how to avoid using your phone while driving

If youíre guilty of using your phone while driving, itís time to kick the habit. To help you change your ways, you might want to take note of these top tips.

Stow your phone out of reach

If you canít get to your mobile, you wonít be tempted to check it. So, before you set off on a journey, stow your phone out of reach. For example, you could put it in your glove compartment, or you could even keep it in the boot. In doing so, youíll be able to commit all of your attention to controlling your vehicle.

Plan regular pit stops

If you simply canít go for long without looking at your phone, plan regular pit stops throughout your journey. Make sure you are parked safely and the engine is switched off before you check it.

Keep your family and friends informed

It can be difficult to ignore your phone if itís buzzing and pinging away when youíre driving. To keep these distractions to a minimum, keep your friends and family informed and let them know that you wonít be able to reply to their texts and calls while youíre on the road.

Turn it off

If you can, simply turn your phone off completely. Alternatively, you could put it on silent or even on flight mode so that you donít receive any calls, texts or notifications while youíre behind the wheel.

In no situation is it acceptable to use a handheld mobile while youíre behind the wheel. The wellbeing of you and other drivers is paramount, so think twice before you reach for your phone.


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