Mobile Phones in the Car
As of the first of March, using a mobile phone at the wheel brings a much tougher punishment. Previously using a phone would bring a £100 fixed penalty notice. The Conservative government has pushed through changes that now mean using a phone behind the wheel, or while supervising a learner driver will get you a £200 fixed penalty notice and 6 points on your license.
The implications? A new driver using their phone will get disqualified and must re-sit both their tests. A driving instructor will receive the same points and fine, the accumulation of that many points may get your PDI/ADI badge suspended.
Why Have Tougher Laws Been Imposed?
Using a phone whilst driving or supervising reduces your ability to react to hazards.
It has been proven that while using a phone at the wheel, you are four times more likely to be involved in a crash, endangering yourself and others. Further information here.
Scenarios and Whether You Can Use a Mobile Phone
- At traffic lights – Nope
- In stationary traffic – Nope
- To answer a call on speaker phone – Nope
- To simply skip to the next song – Nope
- To change your navigation – Nope
- To call 999 or 112 when it’s not safe or suitable to stop – YES
- Can you still use your mobile to navigate? Sure, just don’t you dare touch your phone again once the engine is going.
Responsibilities as a Driving Instructor
As an instructor, you have two responsibilities associated with this law.
Firstly, to teach the importance of not using a phone when driving. In your lessons, you must explain the risks involved, the danger it puts people in. The fact that if caught in the first two years they will be revoked back to their provisional license and must sit both tests again. Whilst the punishment, now, is enough to put many off from using their phone behind the wheel, the pupils must understand why the punishment is so severe.
Show them this video. If that doesn’t work, try this one. The latter really puts the message out there, showing a girl texting with her friends in the car, she then crashes into another car and another car crashes into her, multiple people are dead at the scene, a boy is orphaned and the girl that was texting at the wheel is surrounded by her dead friends. Another heart wrenching commercial is from American mobile phone provider AT&T. The message is important, “You’re never alone on the road.” “Distracted driving is never ok.”
The second responsibility is to practice what you preach. As an instructor, you are also in control of the car. While on a lesson, don’t take calls and don’t respond to texts on your phone. It can wait until after the lesson is completed.
Are the New Punishments Fair?
In my opinion, yes, they are. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the new punishment just so happens to be the same number of points learner drivers need to lose their license. Younger generations have been brought up on technology and a mobile phone is usually a surgical extension of their hand, generally speaking (not all teens are like this), statistics show young drivers are more likely to drive distracted.
There’s a huge national campaign aimed at cracking down to immediately get the message across. I’m predicting this will lead to a fall in numbers of people using their phones, and a bigger negative stigma attached to those that do still use their phones while driving, in the same way that driving drunk was clamped down on.
There are other ways to communicate whilst driving, plenty of cars come with steering wheel mounted controls that enable you to take calls. Look back at the blog a couple weeks ago, that explores how manufacturers are changing with the times with infotainment systems such as IntelliLink. Leave your phone alone, it can wait.