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Driving whilst using a mobile phone harsher sentences.


Driving whilst using a mobile phone harsher sentences.

With effect from 1 March 2017, drivers in Scotland, England & Wales will face harsher penalties for driving whilst using a mobile phone.

It is not simply a matter of being caught texting or with the phone to your ear. If you are seen by police to be operating a phone, you will be liable for a fixed penalty or court citation. This includes using your phone for directions whilst driving or changing your song choice – it means to operate a mobile phone in any way which might interfere with or impair your ability to drive safely. If you cause a crash whilst using your phone, you face the possibility of being prosecuted for dangerous or careless driving which carry severe penalties.

Under current rules, drivers who are stopped by police for driving whilst using their mobile phone are issued with 3 penalty points and a fine of £100. The penalties can be higher if the case is cited for court or the driver refuses to accept the offer of a fixed penalty.

The new rules mean that, with effect from Wednesday 1 March, drivers who are stopped by police for driving whilst using their mobile phone will now face 6 penalty points and a fine of £200. Again, if the case is cited for court or the driver refuses to accept the offer of a fixed penalty, the penalties will likely be higher.

New drivers (i.e those who have been driving for less than 2 years) caught using their mobile phone, will have their driving licence revoked by the DVLA which may mean re-sitting driving and hazard perceptions tests.

For experienced drivers, the accumulation of 12 penalty points on their licence will result in a 6 month driving ban (if it is a first time ban) unless exceptional reasons exist to convince the Court not to impose a ban. This is known as the “exceptional hardship” test and is assessed by the Court on a case by case basis. There is no hard and fast rule as to what constitutes exceptional hardship but it is not enough to show that your future employment may be affected by driving ban. You must demonstrate “reflected hardship”, meaning that you must show someone other than you will be affected by the loss of your licence (such as family members or employees). From its very name, it is clear it is a very high hurdle to establish exceptional hardship to successfully avoid a driving ban. Early legal advice should be obtained.

It remains to be seen what impact (if any) the harsher penalties may have on driving behaviour and whether the threat alone will act as a deterrent. If you receive an offer of fixed penalty or a court citation for a road traffic offence, it is important to seek independent legal advice particularly if you are within the territory of a driving ban.

Lauren Rae is an Associate in our Dispute Resolution & Claims team. We are always delighted to talk without obligation about whether we meet your needs.Email Lauren at lrae@thorntons-law.co.uk or call 01382 229111.

Posted by Lauren Rae

Associate

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