It has been some months since the Road Traffic Act was amended, to make use of a mobile telephone whilst driving an endorsable offence. We are now able to see how the law has been applied to date.
There is clearly confusion about what is permitted.
It is certainly an offence for a driver to use a mobile telephone (or any other hand-held device which performs an interactive communication function), where physical contact is required. It is also unlawful for a person to cause or permit a driver to do so – a person who telephones another, knowing or believing that he or she is driving at the time, may theoretically be prosecuted. Companies requiring their employees to make or receive calls whilst driving may also be in trouble.
It does not appear to be illegal for a person to receive a telephone call, using a hands-free kit, but it is unlawful for such a person to touch the mobile phone, to enable calls to be made or received.
It is this point which has led some commentators to suggest that even hands-free use is likely to be unlawful, unless voice activation is used throughout.
It may be that an accident which occurs whilst a driver is using a mobile telephone may be seen as careless or dangerous driving. There may clearly be such a presumption in the absence of evidence that the mobile telephone call was not a contributory factor.
The continued use of two way radios in vehicles is, incidentally, expressly permitted by the new legislation.