Mobile phone use while driving

Whether someone is using a mobile phone while driving has become a more complicated question in recent years.
Many lawyers in this area of the law will have advised clients previously about preserving evidence when challenged by the police on the use of a phone. By this they could mean:

Show the police, where possible, the phone alleged to have been used (IMEI number as well, which is the phones unique identifier) and demonstrate that you hadn’t used the phone while driving.

If the police don’t take you up on this offer to examine the phone, and they rarely do, you can contact your provider where you would ask for a record of incoming and outgoing calls. Records normally only indicate outgoing calls, so this is very much a specific and potentially costly request of your provider.

HOWEVER, now it is a fact that most detected phone usage in England and Wales, according to a recent survey conducted by police forces south of the border, relates to TEXT and CHAT MESSAGE AND EMAIL CHECKING rather than using the phone for voice calls as it was previously. It is expected that the statistics for Scotland would be similar. This can make it more difficult to prepare your defence. Much of this activity leaves no trace. You will often now rely on more traditional defence methods at trial. Did the police see you touching, or swiping the phone? Where were you looking? Were you actually using the phone?

There are issues of FACT and LAW here to be explored over the coming years.

More focus will also now be placed on demonstrating that you were actually driving with due care and attention, and NOT USING YOUR PHONE.

USING A MOBILE PHONE WHILE DRIVING now attracts a fixed penalty of £200 and 6 PENALTY POINTS.

Due to highly public and very tragic cases of road fatalities involving the use of mobile phones there has been a groundswell for a change in the law.

This will likely increase disqualifications from driving and very probably the number of trials in the court, as individuals will tend to challenge these offences more often than before.

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THE KEY TO A STRONG DEFENCE IS KNOWING WHAT THE POLICE DON’T WANT YOU TO KNOW

DO THE POLICE EVEN KNOW HOW TO USE THE EQUIPMENT?In any case where the police have caught you using any form of speed detection equipment, in car systems, dash mounted or hand held devices of any kind, the police officers will be required to give evidence in court if you challenge the charge. If you challenge the ‘accuracy’ of the equipment the test for the prosecution is even greater. The police will need to demonstrate that the equipment is type approved, and has been properly tested, serviced and most importantly calibrated prior to use by the police. The police officers will also need to demonstrate that the equipment was “calibrated” and working as intended by the manufacturer immediately before use on the day the police used it to detect the speed of your vehicle. This is often much trickier for the police than it sounds and poses a problem for many a prosecutor.   IS THE EQUIPMENT CERTIFICATION CURRENT? If the device used by the police does not have a current calibration certificate it may not be used in speed detection. It should always be checked as an absolute minimum inquiry of the prosecution case.   ARE THE TESTS ON THE EQUIPMENT VALID? Speed detection equipment that falls in to the category of ‘type approved’ must always be maintained by suitably qualified technicians. It is not good enough that unqualified individuals simply carry out an assessment of the equipment. It is always worth checking the service history as well as the calibration of the equipment. Checks should be made that the servicing and technical assessment of the equipment has been carried out within the appropriate time periods, and that it was undertaken by a qualified individual. There will also be a log for the use of the equipment. This will be held by the police and can be requested. This will indicate whether the equipment has in fact been used before, how often. It may reveal issues that would not be otherwise apparent.   HOW DID THE POLICE USE THE EQUIPMENT ON THE DAY. WAS IT CORRECT AND PER MANUFACTURER’S USER GUIDELINES? If the police carried out the proper procedures on the day of the use of the equipment, they will have checked whether the equipment appeared to be working properly. They will then have been required to test the equipment against pre determined distances. This is to ensure that on the day of use the equipment was capable of accurate measurement. The equipment should always be checked on the day of use, both before and after use on the roads. A failure to perform these important checks can be fatal to a prosecution.   ALL EQUIPMENT CAN PRODUCE BAD RESULTS IN CERTAIN CIRCUMSTANCES This is a fact. The poor skills of an operator, or their ignorance as to the proper use of the device, can give rise to inaccurate results. The inherent faults found within some of these devices can also contribute to false results. The manufacturer guidelines for all speed detection equipment is a crucial starting point for any serious challenge to the test results being used against you. To competently challenge the weaknesses often present in speeding cases, you will require the assistance of a specialist road traffic lawyer.   AT BLACKWATER ROAD TRAFFIC LAW we assure a strong challenge to every speeding prosecution.