Using a mobile phone while driving: how to stay safe

You’re driving when the phone rings. You know you shouldn’t pick it up but it’s your best mate calling. You reach down to answer and… your licence is gone. Get caught using a mobile phone while driving and you face six points and a £200 fine if the phone is handheld. For a driver in their first couple of years on the road that’s enough to cost them their licence.

There’s another scenario that’s even more serious. Maybe it’s a pedestrian rather than a police officer around the next corner. They step out into the road and you don’t see them in time because you are using a mobile phone while driving.

Most drivers have the sense to leave their phone alone when they’re behind the wheel. According to the RAC Report on Motoring, some 77% don’t make handheld calls (although hands-free calls are also a dangerous distraction). Be part of the safe majority, not the reckless minority.

Be phone safe every time you drive

Ideally, you’d turn your phone off every time you drive. But a smartphone ‘Do Not Disturb’ mode is the next best thing. Some would say it’s even better, because it’s more convenient.

If you have an Android phone, go into your settings and enable ‘do not disturb’. It should be present on all Android phones running Google 6.0 or later. What’s really clever is that certain Android phones can be set to automatically go into ‘do not disturb’ mode whenever you are driving. That way you won’t have to remember to do this each and every time you drive.

If you have an iPhone running iOS 11 or later, you can do much the same by turning on ‘Do Not Disturb While Driving’. Go to Settings, Control Centre, then Customise Controls. On an iPhone X or later you can swipe down from the top-right corner of the screen and tap on the car symbol to turn this feature on and off. If someone sends a message while you are driving they receive a notification that you are at the wheel and won’t get the message until you stop. They can then mark the message as ‘urgent’, in which case you will get a notification and can either pull over to read it or ask Siri to read it to you.

Handheld vs hands-free

The law treats handheld calls differently from hands-free, but researchers at the University of Sussex has found that it’s the conversation rather than holding the phone to your ear which takes your mind away from driving. So while a hands-free call may be legal, that doesn’t make it safe.

Anything that allows a phone to take attention from the road is a no-no. That includes…

  • Hands-free calls as well as handheld
  • Checking a text
  • Catching up on social media
  • Playing music

Using a mobile phone while driving is never a good idea. When you drive, just drive.

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