From March 2017, the penalties for using a handheld mobile phone while driving, or stopped with the engine on, have become stricter. The Fixed Penalty Notice for using a handheld mobile phone when driving is now £200 and six points. For new drivers caught within two years of passing their test, it also means they will have their licence revoked.
The safest thing to do of course is simply switch your phone off and put it away when driving. Then, if you need to use your phone, stop somewhere safe and turn off your engine before sending a text or making a call. This approach is something we’re championing, in support of the FIA’s #3500Lives campaign.
There are however technologies available which can allow you to safely use your phone, or manage your texts and calls, more safely without you needing to physically – and illegally – handle them. Here are some of the best in-car mobile technologies for staying safe and on the right side of the law.
Sprint Drive First
Sprint Drive First is a free app that automatically detects when you are driving, silences your phone and auto-replies to texts and emails. Calls are redirected to your voicemail, while you can set up what your automatic reply should say. This prevents you being distracted by any incoming messages while behind the wheel and is great for businesses, as it can be configured by bosses to prevent employees using their phone while driving company vehicles.
Steering wheel Bluetooth connection
Not all mobile phones have voice activation features, but those with Bluetooth capabilities can still be used within the law. Cars such as the Audi A3 and others which have a multifunction steering wheel, allow calls to be answered handsfree with the touch of a button on the steering wheel. Even these calls should be kept short and simple. For vehicles without these inbuilt capabilities, a connection device which you clip on to your steering wheel can be bought and used.
Using voice recognition technology such as Siri or Google Voice can be used while driving. For example, this allows you to ask for or change directions on Maps or Google Maps without taking your eyes off the road or having to pull over and waste valuable time, especially if you’re late. Plus, it can be used to send a text message, make a phone call, or even change the music by simply speaking your instructions out loud.
Mobile phone car cradle
If you use your phone as a sat-nav then a mobile phone car cradle is essential. These can be found to attach to your windscreen, dashboard or air vent, with both rigid and flexible stands, so you can determine the best possible position. It is illegal and unsafe to play with your phone even when sat waiting for traffic lights to change, so always set the route before setting off. If you need to check or change it, pull over somewhere safely to do so.
The safest mobile phone is one that is shut in the glove compartment when you’re driving. If you can’t be parted from it, even for two minutes when driving to the shops, then consider using these in-car mobile technologies to stay safe and legal on the roads.
Image courtesy of iStock.