The penalties for using screen based devices on motorbikes
A lot of ballyhoo has rightly been made about using ‘hand-held’ devices on the road. What a lot of people don’t realise is that rules also apply to mounted devices such as sat navs and even mounted cameras like Go-Pros.
New guidelines introduced in March 2017 have doubled the penalties for using a hand-held device on a motorbike. We’ve taken a look at what we believe you now can and can’t do.
No touching when you are motion
Strictly speaking, a rider found to be touching a device when the vehicle is a motion could face a fine, even if the device is a unit attached to the bike and not held in the hand itself, if a police officer believes you are not in full control of the vehicle.
The same goes if the vehicle is stationary at lights and when queuing in traffic. If you use the device and are seen to be distracted, a police officer has the power to issue a penalty.
This would have a severe impact on logistics riders such as couriers and blood bikers who need to consult a navigation screen. Because the law isn’t just for mobiles or smartphones but any device, including sat nav and radios.
From the Government website: “You must stay in full control of your vehicle at all times. The police can stop you if they think you’re not in control because you’re distracted. This includes if you’re using devices like your sat nav or car radio.”
In fact, technically, the only permissible time to use a device is to make 999 or 112 calls is when it’s unsafe or impractical to stop.
You can only use the device when you are parked, and that means in a recognisable parking position, with the ignition off, to demonstrate that you are not controlling the vehicle.
So if you need to touch a device, even adjust the angle of the screen, the only 100% guaranteed way to avoid points and a fine is to pull over.
Is that reasonable?
No, it’s not reasonable, which is why so few prosecutions for the use of mounted devices come to our attention, but it pays to know what could happen if you are involved in an incident where using the device could have distracted you.
In these instances, using a hands-free device but ‘not in proper control’ could lead to three points and a £100 fine, which could rise to £1,000 if you choose to take it to court.
And they’ll take you up on it if you are travelling along in busy traffic, filtering say, and the officer believes your actions are dangerous because you are distracted from concentrating on the road and your surroundings.
However, we believe that in circumstances like being stationary at lights and you tap a mounted screen to wake up a device, but nothing more, it’s more likely that you’ll get a caution than the book thrown at you.
But, you are entirely at the mercy of the officer who spotted you. If it was a CCTV traffic camera, you may not be so lucky, as the operator is under no obligation to take in any reasonable circumstances.
Absolutely no hand-held devices
However, if a police officer observes you using a hand-held device when you are in control of the vehicle, you will be liable for six penalty points and a £200 fine.
In clearly inappropriate circumstances, say where you are holding the device in your hand, using it when stopped and then speeding off with the device in your hand, you could face disqualification from driving and a fine of £1000.
What isn’t so clear at the moment is what happens when a device, say a smartphone is tucked inside an open face or flipped-front helmet, as so many fast-food delivery riders do. We say don’t risk your livelihood, invest in a cheap handsfree cradle and Bluetooth headset.*
The chances of being caught are rising
If you do feel the need to use a device on the move, you face an increasing likelihood of being caught.
Many UK forces are now deploying unmarked bikes, and there is even an unmarked police lorry touring the country, where the higher vantage position makes it easier to spot a device being used.
Both the police and the Government are being very clear that they see using a hand-held device as dangerous as drink driving and they are determined to take the practice out of the UK’s driving culture.
Do you actually need to take the call?
Leaving aside navigation aids for the moment, there is considerable worldwide evidence that shows even hands-free conversations in moving vehicles significantly contribute to accidents.
ROSPA are firmly against ANY type of call being made when you are driving/riding. They would like to see a total ban, including using completely hands-free devices. There is little appetite from Government for this, though.
In the UK, while it’s not a specific offence, if you are involved in an accident and have been found to be using a hands-free phone you are potentially still open to a charge of careless and even dangerous driving.
Get yourself sorted:
*These items were found on Amazon and were particularly good value thanks to significant discounts. These discounts may not apply at the time you are reading this.