Mobile phone offences in Kent are on the increase
Prior to March 2017 motorists could get three points on their licence and be fined £100 by way of fixed penalty. A new law means drivers convicted of committing such offences now get six points on their licence and a £200 fine (note this is if the matter is dealt with by way of fixed penalty – the fines for ordinary motorists driving a car can be up to £1000 if dealt with by a court).
Have harsher penalties reduced offending?
‘No’ this does not seem to be the case as more drivers are now being caught using mobile phones on Kent’s roads. Police recorded a total of 1,096 offences last year of people using devices at the wheel. That is up from 824 in 2016 and 782 in 2015. Anyone who walks down the road looking at drivers in a traffic jam knows that quite a few motorists seem to take this as an opportunity to use their phones. There are very few mobile police patrols given reductions in police numbers. In fact, this could be the cause of the increasing numbers of such offences. Some motorists seem to calculate they may as well use their phones as the chances of being caught are slim.
What is the law on mobile phones?
Confusion as to how an offence is committed does not help. Motorists should understand that if they are using their phones to send or receive text messages, pictures or to make or receive calls the offence is committed (if they touch their phones in doing so). Using the phone as a sat nav is another way of committing the offence. It is not a defence in law if the vehicle is stationary in a queue, at traffic lights or not moving for some other reason. So, be warned, simply picking the phone up off the floor and replacing in its holder could be enough to land you with 6 penalty points and a fine.
Harsher sentences have not reduced offending rates. Perhaps not all motorists realise that the number of penalty points to be endorsed for such offences has now doubled. Yet others don’t necessarily always realise that they are actually committing an offence (as they think they are not ‘driving’ the car when it is stationary). The other side of the coin is that not all those accused of committing this offence are ‘guilty’ of committing it. There are legitimate defences to the charge in some circumstances. At Kent Traffic Law we regularly represent motorists accused of such offences. If you consider you have been unjustly accused and would like the advice of someone who specialises in this field then please don’t hesitate to get in touch.