Q: When is a mobile phone not a mobile phone? A: When it is a sat nav

The offence of using a mobile telephone whilst driving has become one of the most common offences prosecuted by the police. Whilst the offence would appear to be straight forward, it does raise an important question – namely; what constitutes using a mobile phone?

For the purposes of the legislation, any usage of a mobile phone, even just picking it up and pressing a button, constitutes the offence.

However, this is not the end of the story. Although picking a phone up may constitute using it, there is then the question of whether the object you are picking up is a phone or something else.

When Parliament passed the relevant legislation, mobile phones consisted of a phone and, if you were lucky, a camera that took very poor quality photographs. The arrival of the smart phone changed all of that. Suddenly phones became pocket computers more powerful and with far more functionality than desk top computers of just a few years ago.

Indeed, the principal use of smart phones like the new iPhone is to surf the net, play music, record events both by still and movie camera functions and a dozen other things. The actual phone function has become only a small part of what it does.

Anyone who has been in a taxi recently will note that the taxi driver was almost certainly using a sat nav to get to their destination. Closer examination will show that the sat nav was more than likely a smart phone being used in its sat nav function.

Taxi drivers do this, so too do other professional drivers and increasingly private motorists as well – are all of these drivers guilty of using a mobile phone whilst driving? Almost certainly not. Neither should they be committing an offence if they use their smart phone as an MP3 player either.

The current position is a classic example of the law failing to keep up with technological developments. If the police see an individual with what looks like a phone in their hand they will assume that they have been using it to make telephone calls. However, if they have been using it for something else then they may have a defence.

Remember, it is incumbent upon you to persuade the police, or a Court, as to the true use you are putting your smart phone to.

At Palmers, our team can provide specialist advice and representation to individuals in all matters pertaining to road traffic offences including the usage of mobile phones.

For more information, please visit our website or contact our road traffic offences department.