GENERAL NEWS

HANGING ON THE TELEPHONE

IS IT LEGAL TO USE YOUR MOBILE PHONE AT ALL WHILE RIDING YOUR MOTORCYCLE OR DRIVING YOUR CAR?

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'New' mobile phone legislation came in in 2003, now while that may not seem so long ago in the scheme of things, phones and social media etc have really, really and I mean REALLY moved on since then. This makes the current legislation just a tad out of date although it has been added to with a smattering of fines and penalty points since then. £60 and points in 2007, £100 in 2013, £200 in 2017 – up and rising.

Now that we have hands free it might seem like a solution to the calls in motion issue, but it kind of isn't really. There is a new legislation currently being formulated, which rules that if you are going to use your phone as a sat nav or to listen to music or have a conversation on it, you will need to put the information you need in before moving off, as once your engine is on then anything you are doing manually on your phone is illegal. Even checking it at the lights, if it is not in a mount, will be illegal. The penalties are severe, six penalty points, £200 and for young drivers who have had a licence for under two years, they will lose their licence. So best to resist it!

If the vehicle is parked by the road side with the engine off then it should be ok to use your phone but be aware that it is judged on a case by case basis.

There are ways to use your phone legally currently, if it is hands free via bluetooth in your helmet that's ok, or if it's mounted to the bike in a cradle. However this doesn't give you licence to scroll around, you can only answer a call or do a route change with tap, that's all. Anything that might distract you from the road is a no go.

For motorcyclists safety this new phone legislation is overdue as the incidence of SMIDSY (sorry mate I didn't see you) drivers is exacerbated by those who are distracted by their mobile phones and possibly even less likely to notice a nearby rider.

Exception To The Rule

The only exception to this rule is to use your phone to call the emergency services in the event of an accident or problem when it isn't possible to stop or for making a contactless payment on a toll road, or paying for your order at a drive-through restaurant.

Although the main legislation is concerning the mechanics of actually holding your phone to call someone and fiddling around with it, there is also a lot of debate about the cognitive load of even using a phone hands free, if you are having an in depth or complicated exchange with someone it could engage your brain and thus take your focus off the road. Can you really fully concentrate on driving your car or riding your bike if you are focused on your conversation? It is ultimately the individual's own responsibility to concentrate on the road and not allow themselves to be distracted at all by any device on the bike.

New Highway Code Wording

So the wording which is looking likely for new mobile phone legislation is as follows:

“You MUST exercise proper control of your vehicle at all times. You MUST NOT use a hand-held mobile phone, or similar device capable of interactive communication, (such as a tablet) for any purpose when driving or when supervising a learner driver. This ban covers all use of a hand-held interactive communication device and it applies even when the interactive communication capability is turned off or unavailable. You cannot pick up the phone to dial a number and then put it in the cradle for the duration of the conversation. You also cannot use your hand-held device while stationary in traffic, that is still driving.

There is an exception to call 999 or 112 in a genuine emergency when it is unsafe or impractical to stop. There is also an exception if you are using a hand-held mobile phone to make a contactless payment, while the vehicle is stationary, for goods or services that you will be receiving immediately.

You may park your vehicle using a hand-held remote control app or device. The app or device MUST be legal, and you should not put other people in danger when you use it.

Never use a hand-held microphone when driving.

It is far safer not to use any telephone or similar device while you are driving or riding - find a safe place to stop first or use the voicemail facility and listen to messages later.”

But But...
When stopped by the police for using a mobile, riders and drivers have used a ready list of excuses to explain their phone use. However these should now all be blocked by the exhaustive list of illegal phone actions, designed to prevent illegal phone use. All the following actions will now be listed as illegal which should pretty much cover any excuse which can be dreamt up:
  • Unlocking the screen
  • Checking the time
  • Waking up the screen
  • Checking incoming messages
  • Rejecting a call
  • Writing a message to send later
  • Taking a photo or video
  • Searching for a song
  • Dictating a voice message
  • Searching for photos
  • Using the camera as a mirror
  • Reading a pre-downloaded book
  • Playing a pre-downloaded game

It seems crazy that anyone should contemplate playing a game or reading a book while riding their motorcycle or driving and think that this could be ok or safe or legal! However it is indeed a crazy world out there with a multitude of distractions available to us, while we are doing anything at all, specifically designed to grab our attention and they are very hard to resist.

What You Can Do...
You will be allowed to do some things with your phone still while driving or riding which will be legal. You can make an emergency call, a contactless toll payment or pay for food at a drive-through, but anything else and you will be breaking the law.

So all in all, this could make the roads safer. Is it something you welcome or do you think it's unnecessary? Let us know at news@wemoto.com or drop us a message on Facebook.

Posted by Lucy England
for Wemoto News on 07 May 2021 in General News

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