Tractor Drivers and Mobile Phones

Friday, 30 August, 2019

Commodity watch by UFU Legislation & Rural Affairs policy officer Lorraine McKnight

With the popularity of mobile phones having surged in recent decades and the majority of people being a proud owner of the ‘must have communication device’, it is hardly surprising that the temptation to pick up a mobile phone whilst driving is now a real threat to the safety of drivers and other road users.

It is not uncommon to view a driver picking up a mobile phone when stuck in traffic or when waiting at a red light to send a text message or make a quick call. However, drivers should remember that by using your mobile phone whilst behind the wheel of a vehicle and with the engine switched on, you are breaking the law. Research carried out by the Department of Transport UK shows that when using a mobile phone whilst driving a motor vehicle, the driver is four times more likely to be involved in a road traffic accident.

The law regarding mobile phones has been in place for 16 years and from its inception many drivers have chosen to ignore it, and this includes tractor drivers. With the PSNI receiving more and more complaints each year from members of the public regarding drivers using mobile phones whilst in control of a tractor, a change in behaviour from drivers is required in order to reduce the likelihood of a serious road traffic accident occurring. 

During the summer of 2018, tougher penalties were introduced right across the United Kingdom to deal with an issue, which can easily spiral out of control. It is worth noting that any new drivers that are caught using their mobile phone whilst in charge of a motor vehicle and have passed their driving test within the two years prior to the offence occurring, will automatically lose their driving licence. For these drivers, if they would like to drive a motor vehicle again on the public highway, then a need will exist to re sit and pass both the theory and practical aspects of the driving test again.

All other drivers will automatically receive a fixed penalty notice with their driving licence becoming endorsed with three penalty points and the requirement to pay a fine of £60. If the Public Prosecution Service (PPS) choose to escalate a driver’s case so that it is heard in a Court Room by a Judge, this could result in the driver facing disqualification on top of a maximum fine of £1000.

The introduction of hands-free kits or a blue tooth system to younger vehicles including tractors, have taken away the need for drivers to hold their mobile phone in their hand when making and receiving a call whist driving. These kits can include a dashboard holder or mat, or a windscreen mount, and the device must not block the driver’s view. The best method to follow if the need arises to make or receive a call whilst driving is to leave the road, park in a safe location and switch off the engine.