is it still good to talk?

since the introduction of the government's mobile phone legislation, motorists have been forced to think again about how they use their phones in their cars. has the law had an effect?

If it's a crime to use a mobile phone when you're driving a car - and of course it is - then most of us have been guilty of it at some time. The government's legislation however, has forced regular offenders to do something about the way they talk on the move or has it?

The law banning the use of a mobile phone whilst in control of a car is commonsense to most people, yet just a cursory glance at passing traffic will reveal that a significant number of motorists still ignore the rules, putting themselves, passengers and other road users in potential danger. To many, a mobile phone has become an essential part of daily life and the thought of it being turned off and in effect removing them from their network of contacts is unthinkable. Consequently, a ringing phone has to be answered no matter what, even if that means putting their own life in danger. The problem is that many of these miscreants don't see this action as dangerous and consider themselves more than able to use their phone and drive safely all at the same time. The fact that they are also very unlikely to get caught only encourages them further to break the law with impunity.

Basic commonsense rules are:

Keep your phone on voicemail when driving

If you need to make a call, or check your messages, stop and park up in a safe place and switch off your engine first.

If you feel you really must make or receive phone calls, stick to using a hands free kit with a cradle, and keep conversation brief.

Tell the person calling you that you are driving so they understand your need to concentrate

Avoid long complex conversations. Instead tell the person you will call back when you have parked up safely.

Remember it is an offence for employers to encourage motorists to use their mobile phones when driving, so do not feel obliged to answer or make work-related phone calls while driving.

Never stop on the hard shoulder of the motorway to use a mobile phone unless it is an emergency.

In the case of an emergency it is better to use the roadside emergency phones situated along the hard shoulder if possible, as this will make it easier to trace your location and reach you quickly.

If you are an employer and your staff drive for work purposes, you will need to review your risk management procedures to include policy on mobile phone use which reflects the new laws.

Based on the queries we've received, you might also find useful this at a glance question and answer section on in-car use of mobile phones:

1. What does the mobile phone ban mean for drivers?

It is a specific offence to use a hand-held phone when driving. A hand-held device is something that "is or must be held at some point during the course of making or receiving a call or performing any other interactive communication function." A motorist can regard driving as meaning a vehicle with the engine running. In simple terms you can use a mobile as long as you don't hold the phone and you can't use a hand-held phone if the engine is running.

2. How much is the fine if you get caught using a hand-held mobile when driving?

Motorists will receive a fixed penalty of £60 and 3 penalty points.

3. What happens if you take the matter to court?

Motorists can take the matter to court and the maximum fine is £1,000 (£2,500 for drivers of goods vehicles).

4. Will I be able to use a hands-free phone while I'm driving?

Yes, but you can only use it if it can be operated without holding the phone. Therefore mobile phones should be placed in cradles which are attached to the dashboard. Pushing buttons is permissible.

5. Will I still get stopped by police if I am using a hands-free phone when driving?

If you are stopped by police and you are using a hands-free phone while driving, you can face prosecution under other motoring laws. The police can charge you with driving without due care and attention, not being in proper control and dangerous driving. If there is an accident and you are using a phone you may well be charged with these offences. If someone is killed in an accident where any part of the phone is being used, the driver will almost certainly go to jail.

6. Why is the Government not introducing a ban on hands-free mobiles as well?

Drivers should remember that the police can use existing legislation if a motorist is distracted by a call on a hands-free phone. If there is an accident and the driver is using a phone, then there is a risk of prosecution for dangerous driving. The AA Motoring Trust also reminds drivers that research shows that drivers who use hands-free phones are four times as likely to be involved in an accident.

7. If the Government is banning mobile phones, then why not stop people tuning in the radio and talking?

The Government has no intention of banning these activities, which would be very difficult to enforce. The AA Motoring Trust reminds drivers that there are many potential distractions while driving and it remains the driver's responsibility to drive safely at all times.

8. Can I make and receive calls if my phone is in a cradle?

You can push buttons on the phone while it is in a cradle or on the steering wheel or handlebars of a motorbike, as long as it is in the cradle and you don't hold the phone. However, The AA Motoring Trust urges drivers not to use even hands-free phones as they are four times as likely to be involved in an accident.

9. Can you text and use the internet on your phone while driving?

The use of mobile phones for these purposes are prohibited if you hold the phone. You can push buttons on a phone while it is in the cradle as this does not breach the new regulation. However, police may use their powers to stop you under existing laws. The AA Motoring Trust urges drivers not to do this as it could be distracting. Research has shown that drivers who use hands-free are four times as likely to be involved in an accident.

10. Will motorists be able to use navigation equipment and personal digital assistants (PDAs) or other computer equipment that sends or receives data?

In theory yes - providing it is not a hand-held device. The Government guidelines state that use of devices other than mobile phones is only prohibited if the device performs an interactive communication function by sending and receiving data. If the device does not perform this type of function, you can use the device without breaching the regulations. However, The AA Motoring Trust urges drivers not to use these machines as it could be distracting.

11. Will 2-way radios be included in the new offence?

The use of 2-way radio equipment when driving is not included in the new offence. The AA Motoring Trust urges motorists that there is still a risk of distraction and prosecution under other motoring laws.

12. Can I use a hand-held phone when I am stationary in traffic?

No, the regulations state that driving includes time when stopped at traffic lights or during other hold-ups, so you can't use a hand-held. However, if there was an accident on a motorway, for example, and you could safely say you wouldn't move, then you could turn the engine off and then use the phone.

13. Can I use my hand-held mobile if it is placed between my ear and shoulder?

No, because you will be holding the phone and breaking the law.

14. Can I use an earpiece kit if my phone is not in a cradle?

Technically yes. The AA Motoring Trust would never recommend using this though because it would be tempting to pick the phone up and then you would be breaking the law. It could also easily fall on the floor and then you are distracted from driver by trying to pick the phone up. You can use an ear-piece kit if the phone is placed in a cradle and you don't hold the phone when receiving a call.

15. Should motorists turn off mobiles when driving?

The best way to avoid making or receiving calls in the car is to turn the phone off. However, this is not always practical for everyone. It is safer to let the phone ring and return the call when safely parked. However, motorists should remember that the car engine needs to be switched off to make or take the call. Passengers in the car can use their phones while in cars.

16. Can I make emergency calls?

There is an exemption for making 999 calls to the emergency services where it is unsafe or impractical to stop.

17. Who do the regulations apply to?

The regulations apply to drivers of all motor vehicles, including, cars, motorcycles, goods vehicles, buses, coaches and taxis. They also apply to anyone supervising a learner driver, while he or she is driving.

18. Will cyclists be prosecuted for using a mobile phone while cycling?

No, but police do have the powers to deal with careless or dangerous cycling.

19. Are employers guilty of an offence if their employees use a hand-held phone while driving?

The regulations apply to anyone who causes or permits any other person to use a hand-held phone while driving. Under Department for Transport guidelines, they consider that employers would not be liable just because they supplied a telephone or because they phoned an employee who was driving. However, employers would probably be liable if they required their employees to use a hand-held phone while driving and might also be liable if they failed to forbid employees to use such phones on company business.

20. What are the insurance implications if motorists are caught using mobile phones when driving?

In theory, an insurance company could refuse to pay for damage to your own car if you were breaking the law at the time of the accident (ie going through red lights, using mobile telephone).

The effects on your insurance if you have an accident could include loss of no claim bonus which would result in an insurance premium increase by at least 50 per cent.

A number of convictions, such as drink driving, dangerous driving may result in cover being refused or a significant financial penalty being applied.