Using Mobile Phones Just Got More Dangerous

Monday, 15. September 2014

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You may not have heard the name Marina Usaceva but a court ruling, following an accident in which she was involved, could change your attitude to what you do whilst driving.      Marina was considered responsible for a fatal accident in which the other driver involved died. She had been using a mobile phone but not at the time of the accident.

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Her barrister explained that there was a 6 minute difference between the time it was shown she was using the phone and when she had the accident. Described as ‘clear water’ and provided as mitigating evidence the plea was still ignored by the judge when he sentenced Marina to 6 years imprisonment.

Evidence showed that she had sent and received texts on two phones during the 20 minutes before the accident. In summing up before sentencing Judge Sean Enright said, ‘If you were not sending texts at the time, then you were fiddling with your phone and that is what caused the collision. Mobile phone use whilst driving is a plague on our society,’

This is a clear warning that the courts will consider the use of a mobile phone whilst driving as a contributing factor to an accident, even if not being used at the time of the accident. Labour Peer Lord Ahmed was jailed for 12 weeks after admitting to texting at the time he was involved in a fatal accident on the M1 in 2009. Since then the law has tightened and sentences greatly increased.

At the time the case was ground breaking because the judge didn’t link the texting directly to the accident but described the texting as ‘prolonged, deliberate, repeated and highly dangerous.’ So the warning, as repeated by Lucy Whitaker of legal firm Rothera Dowson, is that courts are now increasingly willing to consider the use of a mobile phone, prior to an accident, as a contributing factor.

As the law stands at the moment if a driver is found to be using a mobile phone whilst driving he will usually receive a fine of £100 and 3 points on his licence. Using a mobile when involved in an accident causing a serious injury or fatality would be considered to be driving without due care and attention with a maximum penalty of 5 years imprisonment along with disqualification and potential fine.

Beyond that, death by dangerous driving carries a maximum jail sentence of 14 years and a minimum disqualification of 2 years, a discretionary re-test and possible fine. Whilst there is still no suggestion that telephones should be switched off whilst driving, if you have an accident, even whilst using a hands free phone, this could still be considered by a judge to be an ‘unnecessary distraction’ and be treated the same as if you had been using a mobile phone without hands free.

As pointed out by Lucy Whitaker, ‘There is no real ‘safe time’ to use a phone, hand held or otherwise, whilst driving.’ Be warned that it is standard practice for police to confiscate mobile phones from drivers at the scene of very serious accidents as part of the information and evidence gathering process. Casually using mobile phones without consideration of the consequences is irresponsible so stop it now.

Driver in a Mitsubishi Galant using a hand hel...

Driver in a Mitsubishi Galant using a hand held mobile phone violating New York State law. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In the first 3 months of this year 380 people lost their lives in accidents attributed to the use of a mobile phone, up 13% over the same period in 2013. Campaigners warn that mobile phone use could become a bigger killer in 2015 than drink driving – a sobering thought! By Graham Hill

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