I remember in the 80s arriving at the Australian Bar, Milner Street, SW3 on a Friday afternoon. Porsche cars complete with whale tails crowding the pavements, their ‘owners’ drinking at the bar with phones standing next to their pints. Although they had left the ultimate status symbol at the time outside, they had a mobile alternative weighing in at slightly less than the car.

Frankly, committing a driving offence like using a mobile phone while driving would have been almost impossible then. Holding a phone to one’s ear, more often than not, required both hands – leaving little else for steering.

As with all technology, as time goes on, designs improve. Thanks to electronic innovation, communications equipment gets smaller and smaller until it becomes truly mobile and something far more than just a phone. The result? More and more people are using a mobile phone while driving. Consequently, the dangers which follow create new offences like the CU80.

Using a Mobile Phone While Driving – the Law

The three main offences for using a mobile phone while driving are:

  • Use by the driver
  • Causing or permitting the use by the driver
  • Supervising a provisional licence holder whilst driving

In the first offence, the phone must be held at some point during the course of making or receiving a phone call, or performing any other interactive communication function. When supervising a learner driver, it is also an offence to use a phone while driving, because you should be supervising the driver at all times.

Using a mobile phone while driving is usually recognised as a CU80 driving offence. The CU80 code defines the offence as a ‘breach of requirements as to control of the vehicle, such as using a mobile phone.’

What is the Penalty for Using a Mobile Phone While Driving?

In March 2017, driving offence penalties were increased. If you are convicted with a CU80 driving offence, you could receive:

  • 3-6 penalty points
  • A maximum fine up to £2,500
  • A discretionary driving ban

If you have passed your driving test in the last two years and receive six penalty points, you will lose your licence. A CU80 driving offence code will additionally remain on your driving record for the next four years.

Avoiding a CU80 Driving Offence

If you are caught using a mobile phone while driving, you can avoid a CU80 in particular circumstances. There is an exemption which applies to all three offences, requiring three criteria to be met:

  • The call was made to an emergency service (112 or 999)
  • The caller was acting in response to a genuine emergency
  • It was impracticable to cease driving in order to make the call

The emergency will be judged objectively. Therefore, ‘genuine’ emergency rather than just emergency is used perhaps to reinforce this fact.

In addition, some phones (an iPhone) can stop receiving incoming messages of all types while the car is moving. Thus, messages are stopped and the driver cannot be distracted. It still allows calls to be made and received on the hands-free facility to ensure we are not completely cut off from the outside world.

Mobile Phone Driving Law in Court

The problem with interacting with our phones is it causes us to lose concentration on the main event. How often have you missed a junction because you were having a conversation? Sometimes, you may even forget where you are going.

Using a phone while driving will come to court if not dealt with by way of a fixed penalty. Mobile phone offences can also appear as aggravating features to other road traffic offences. If asked by a prosecutor if you were having a conversation on your mobile at the time of the crash, it is always better to be able to say no. The lorry driver who was using his mobile phone while it was in its stand on the dashboard was horrified when he crashed into the car in front. But what he did not realise was that he had also driven over another car which was under his lorry.

The best advice is perhaps not to use your phone in the car at all. If you must and don’t have a hands-free device fitted, stop somewhere safe and not on the road. Apply the handbrake, switch off the engine and remove the keys from the ignition. Then, you can make the call. That way, you will never find yourself charged with using a mobile phone while driving. Better still – why not write a letter?

If you have been charged with using a mobile phone while driving, contact Major Family Law for specialist knowledge and expert guidance. We can assist with all motoring and driving offences, including totting and being drunk in charge, as well as the using a phone while driving CU80 offence.

Contact us and speak to our Consultant Solicitor Charles Waddell on 078 0271 7418 for emergency advice on mobile phone driving law.