Road safety charity Brake has revealed that more than a quarter (28 percent) of UK drivers admit to texting while at the wheel. The research, which was conducted in conjunction with insurance firm Direct Line, also revealed that nine percent say they surf the web, read emails and even check social networking sites from their smartphone while driving.
Under UK law its currently illegal to drive a vehicle or ride a motorcycle while using a hand-held mobile phone. If caught, the driver will be issued with three points on their licence and a fixed penalty fine of £60. However, Brake is calling for much tougher penalities including the driver being disqualified for a minimum of 12 months. The law also applies to any similar device, such as a PDA, that must be held at some point to send or receive spoken or written messages or still or moving images and access the web.
However, with smartphones also allowing users to listen to music and many drivers connecting them to their car stereos, just scrolling through tracks stored on the device could result you being stopped by police. In a bid to prove you've commmited an offence, the officer that stopped you may want to search your smartphone for evidence to support this. While at PCA we don't condone using your smartphone while driving at any point, a number of web users have a asked us whether the officer in question actually needs a warrant to search you smartphone.
The simple answer is no. If a police officer believes the device many contain evidence that an offence has been committed then they have the right to search all the data stored on the device. Furthermore, if the officer thinks the smartphone itself has been obtained as a result of an offence, then they have the right to search it and retain it as well.
However, that said an officer does not have the power to randomly stop you in the street and start looking through the data stored on your handset.
Our advice? Turn your phone off or on silent when driving and make sure its out of reaqch so you're not tempted to answer any calls that do come through. And if you're a fan of connection your iPhone to your stereo invest in a head unit that allows you to control the tracks, so you're not tempted to scroll through your handset to change songs.