Using a hand held phone whilst driving is illegal, it’s as simple as that. This also goes for any similar hand held device, be it an mp3 player, dictation machine or whatever. Details of exactly what penalties can be incurred if you do this are available from gov.uk, but don’t expect a mere slap on the wrist should you get caught as law enforcement take an extremely dim view of this offence.
If you’re going to use a phone in the car it can only be when the device is safely mounted in a dashboard clamp that allows hands-free access to its controls. However, even doing this requires some forethought, care and attention. Here are some tips on the best way to use you phone hands free whilst driving.
Notifications and calls can be distracting, especially if you’re sort of person who gets them regularly. Switching your phone to silent can reduce this, letting you concentrate on driving safely. Just ask yourself if that call or text that you’re expecting really can’t wait until after you’ve arrived at your destination.
A more drastic but not unreasonable measure would be to put your handset into airplane mode, cutting off all data and communications completely. While this is not a viable option if you are planning on using a sat nav app to aid your journey, it’s worth considering if you’re only using the phone for playing music through the car’s stereo.
Set everything up before you begin your journey
If you are planning on playing music or making a call whilst driving, can you set all the relevant functions up before you head off? Creating a playlist and pressing play on your tracks before starting the engine means you won’t even have to think about it again until you arrive. The same goes for calls or your sat nav app. Preparing in advance of putting the key in the ignition reduces the number of things you have to think about as you are driving, making it safer overall.
Use a dashboard app
Several handset manufacturers now include native apps with their devices which present a simplified version of the user interface and controls for key functions most commonly used in the car.
While designs differ, the common form tends to comprise of a landscape view with several large icons that take you through to simplified versions of the various functions. HTC’s offering is a very good example of this but there are several third party apps that do the same thing.
Use voice controls
Siri, S-Voice or any of the many smartphone-based digital voice-activated assistants can vastly reduce the amount of effort you have to put into interacting with your device. While the accuracy and usability of such features still remains open to debate, there use is certainly worth considering whilst in the car.
Need to phone someone? A quick double-tap on an iPhone’s home button will activate Siri and you can then speak the instruction to place a call whilst still concentrating on driving. Any stigma that may have been attached to using such features in public shouldn’t be a problem either; in your car, no one else can hear you.