Press cover today (Dec 11) suggests mobile phone usage whilst driving has not decreased
but in fact increased since the introduction of endorsement of three penalty points
(or disqualification) on driving licences a couple of years ago.
The dangers for drivers (whether driving privately or commercially) is to think that
the worst case scenario is a £60 fixed penalty and three penalty points. It is clearly
not. As we have pointed out in previous articles, mobile phone mis-use is not merely
an offence in its own right but such phone usage can be regarded as part and parcel
of other offences such as careless driving or dangerous driving - indeed Crown Prosecution
Service guidance is that the use of a mobile phone in the context of an accident
should give rise to consideration of not merely a careless driving offence but dangerous
driving as a starting point (mandatory 12 month driving disqualification and double
normal duration re-test).
The published sentencing guidelines for fatal accidents are very specific: if any
dangerous or careless driving takes place and a fatality occurs then a custodial
sentence must normally be imposed. Mobile phone use will aggravate any such case.
In cases of the relatively new offence of death by careless driving custody will
normally only be avoided where there is a total absence of any aggravating features
(including phone mis-use) and the carelessness amounts only to a momentary lapse.
Court proceedings for dangerous or careless in the context of mobile phone mis-use
will not be confined to fatal accidents, however. No driver of any vehicle should
simply assume that being caught using a mobile phone will only result in a fixed
penalty notice and three points - they may in fact face an allegation of careless
driving ( 3 to 9 points or disqulaification) or worse. It is perhaps this lack of
insight which perpetuates mis-use.
And what of professional drivers - mobile phone mis-use is a road heading towards
a driver conduct hearing before a Traffic Commissioner and the commercial press often
reports on drivers whose vocational licences have been suspended for short periods
for such offences.
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