This week I was driving home along a little used B-road when, careening towards me, came a car whose driver had both hands at the top of their wheel and firmly gripping their phone – not their wheel – while they texted/insta’d/scrolled?
For a moment, I thought they would be hitting me without a doubt. But the road was wide enough and I was cautious enough to ensure we didn’t collide.
And, again this week, we had news from GEM Motoring Assist, which has welcomed the government announcement that the law on the use of a mobile phone while driving is to be strengthened from 2022.
Too bloody right! One day we will all look back at the convergence of phones and cars and frown on it as we do now with drink drivers. There is no excuse.
Under the revised legislation, drivers who use hand-held phones in any way while at the wheel will face a fine of £200 and six points on their licence.
That means all of us, doesn’t it? We have all answered a call or chosen a track…
As GEM says, making calls or texting on a hand-held mobile while driving is already against the law, however scrolling through music playlists, playing games or taking photographs have up until now not been included – and drivers have been able to exploit the legal loophole because these activities fell outside the scope of ‘interactive communication’.
GEM has a number of simple tips regarding mobile phones and driving:
1 You’re allowed to use a mobile phone when you are safely parked, with the engine off and the handbrake on and the key out.
2 Please do not pick up your phone in any other driving situation, including when you’re stationary at traffic lights or queueing in traffic.
3 The only exception to this is if it’s an emergency and it would be unsafe or impractical to stop, in which case you may call 999.
4 Don’t assume that using a hands-free kit means you have dealt with the risk. You are still allowing yourself to be distracted from the task of safe driving, and you could still be prosecuted for not being in control (an offence that carries a £100 fine and three penalty points).
5 Take a few minutes before a journey to make important calls or to check voice messages and emails. Work together with friends, family, colleagues and work contacts to remove the expectation that we should all be available, all the time.
6 Plan journeys to build in breaks from driving, where you can call, text or email or interact with social media in a safe environment.
But, apart from that, get off the bloody phone!