Many drivers and business owners have been in touch with us over recent days in relation to the new legislation on mobile phone use while driving.
The law on mobile phones in cars just got a little bit tougher. It is not a dramatic change, and it may not be the last one needed, but it does close off a loophole and it does make the offence of sending a text while driving more serious. For clarity, the situation is as follows:
You may never hold a mobile phone in one hand and the steering wheel in the other. No exceptions, no excuses – this is never legal. This has not changed with the new regulations.
You have always been allowed to use a hands-free phone if it is properly mounted in its cradle. However with effect from today you may never send a text or an email from a phone nor may you look up the internet even if the phone is in a hands-free cradle. If you break that law you will have to go to court where you could be fined up to €1,000 for a first offence and €2,000 for a second offence. You may also (theoretically) receive up to 3 months in jail.
It is permissible to answer a call on a hands-free phone. Some people seem to think that the new law makes it an offence even to press the ‘receive’ button but this is not true. It is still not specifically illegal to answer the phone. Even so it is a bad habit and one that people should avoid.
You may not dial a number on hands-free while driving unless the system is voice-operated. Again the AA advises that you should not make calls or engage in lengthy conversations on the phone while driving.
There is no exemption or special treatment in law for taxi drivers. The emergency services are different and may be exempt from certain aspects of road traffic law in certain circumstances.
Just because the law doesn’t forbid something explicitly does not mean that you are free to do it. There is a clause which makes it an offence to drive a car ‘without reasonable consideration’. This covers razors, make-up, fumbling for cigarettes, carelessly using a coffee cup and thousands of other things besides. So a hands-free user could still be prosecuted if their actions mean that they are not concentrating on their driving.