Derbyshire police’s March crackdown on drivers using their mobile phones may seem like a distant memory – but the force says its focus on the crime is sharper than ever.
From March 1-8, 2017, just after harsher punishments on mobile phone use behind the wheel came into force, Derbyshire police launched a campaign to catch people flouting the law.
MORE ON THIS: First drivers caught using mobile phones after new harsher penalties come in
“By 8.15am on the day we launched our campaign, someone had lost their licence,” said a spokesman for Derbyshire police. “We also had an unmarked HGV lorry operating on roads such as the M1 – which caught both lorry drivers and motorists. We will be using the unmarked HGV again at some point in the future. We won’t be publicising when, as we want to catch the culprits.”
Increased penalties mean that drivers caught using their phone will be fined £200 and handed six points on their licence – up from the previous three points and £100 penalty.
Drivers will also no longer have the option to take a driver education course instead of taking the points; they will just automatically receive all six.
“Catching people using their mobile phone illegally is a major focus for us 365 days a year,” said Derbyshire police.
Motorists caught using their mobile twice or accruing 12 points on their licence will face magistrates’ court, being disqualified and fines of up to £1,000.
Meanwhile, new drivers, within two years of passing their test, risk having their licence revoked and lorry or bus drivers can be suspended if caught.
Under the law, use of a handheld mobile phone behind the wheel will be punished whether a driver is making a call, using it on loudspeaker, texting, filming, taking a picture or using the internet.
MORE NEWS: How you can LEGALLY use a mobile phone as a sat nav while driving
Here is a guide to what you can and can’t do on your mobile phone while driving:
When can I use my mobile phone?
It is illegal to use a handheld mobile phone or internet-enabled device, such as a tablet, while you’re behind the wheel.
The law still applies even if you are stopped at lights or queuing in traffic. You are also not allowed to use your phone if you are parked up but your engine is running.
If your car is parked up and your engine is off, you are free to use your mobile phone while sat in the driver’s seat.
There is one exception to the law, and that is if a driver needs to call 999 in an emergency, if it is unsafe or unpractical to stop.
Can I press buttons on my phone to answer a call or to change music?
No, it is illegal to press buttons on your phone while you’re behind the wheel.
OTHER NEWS: Derbyshire drivers warned: If you get a parking fine, it could be a con
Can I use my phone as a sat nav?
It is fine to use your phone as a sat nav, as long as it is secured in a holder correctly and out of the 45-degree angle of the driver’s view, but you cannot touch it or re-programme it while driving.
Can I use a hands-free kit?
Yes, but you cannot press a button on your phone to answer any call while driving.
If police think you are not in control of your car while you’re using a hands-free, you could be handed a £200 fine and six points.
Prosecutors and judges can factor in the use of a hands-free kit when dealing with dangerous driving charges.
The AA advises drivers who need to take a call while they’re behind the wheel to “stop or leave it to go to voicemail – even if you have a hands-free phone”.
“If you must talk, and have a hands-free phone, keep conversations short and simple or say that you’ll find a safe and legal place to stop and phone back.”
My employer needs to speak to me over the phone while I’m driving – who is responsible?
It’s your fault if you are caught, but your employer can be prosecuted too if they cause, or permit you to drive while using a phone or not to have proper control of a vehicle; if they require you to make or receive calls while driving; or if you drive dangerously because you’re using a phone installed by your employer.
Can I eat and drink while driving?
Yes. It is not illegal to eat or drink while driving, however, motorists can be prosecuted for careless driving if they are distracted by their food.
Drinking soft drinks is fine too, as long as it does not take over your attention. And remember to be careful with hot drinks.
What about smoking?
It is not illegal to smoke or vape while driving, but it can be factored into a careless driving charge. You can’t smoke in a car if anyone in the vehicle is under the age of 18.
Can I change the radio station?
Yes, you are allowed to change the radio station while at the wheel, but if it does distract you and cause you to demonstrate careless driving then you could be prosecuted.
LOOKING FOR A NEW JOB? Visit our amazing jobs channel here