Drivers warned: hands-free devices offer no immunity from prosecution

News Article

Palmers Partner, Jeremy Sirrell, has warned that drivers should think twice about using a hands-free phone while driving.

He issued the warning after a woman was convicted of causing death by dangerous driving as a result of being distracted by a hands-free call.

Samantha Ayres, 34, was sentenced at Lincoln Crown Court to three years in prison for killing motorcyclist, David Kirk, whilst travelling on the wrong side of the road during a call on a hands-free mobile phone.

Jeremy Sirrell said: “This case is a useful reminder that, regardless of the legality of using hands-free telephone kits, it is always incumbent upon any driver to make sure that their attention remains firmly focused on the road.

“Miss Ayres was convicted of causing death by dangerous driving because she had failed to observe not only the presence of the motorcyclist but also the fact that she had drifted onto the wrong side of the road, colliding with him and killing him and now faces imprisonment.

“The Judge specifically indicated in his judgement that ‘the fact of using a phone (hands free) is lawful does not alter the fact that it is an actual distraction’.

“Motorists who use hands-free kits – probably most of us – need to make sure that their attention remains focused firmly on the road ahead of them and what is happening around them.”

Using a phone without a hands-free kit whilst driving is punishable by a fine and 6 penalty points. The law applies even if you are stopped at traffic lights, queuing in traffic or supervising a learner driver.

Jeremy continued: “Hands-free kits enable the use of mobile telephones by drivers without giving rise to the commission of this specific offence. However, the potential for distraction that any telephone conversation causes must be considered carefully.

“The telephone conversation must take secondary priority. Any distraction – and this of course could mean changing channel on the radio, opening a packet of sweets, drinking or eating whilst at the wheel – may amount to such a distraction that the driver is considered not to be in proper control of their vehicle, driving without due care and attention or in extreme cases may be guilty of dangerous driving.”

He cautioned that any motorist engaged in a tricky manoeuver whilst driving should consider not taking that call and any motorist that considers themselves to be spending more time or energy on the call than on driving should also terminate the call and switch their attention to the road.

Jeremy Sirrell said: “The danger of hands-free kits is that they may lure drivers into a sense of false security. Yes, you will not be committing a specific offence of using a mobile telephone or ‘mobile telecommunications device’ while driving but you might still be guilty of a separate offence if your driving standard falls below an acceptable level.

“The worst scenario, of course, is that as a result of a distraction someone is killed, leading to a conviction of death by dangerous driving, as in the recent Ayres case.”