Drivers could get £200 fine and six penalty points if they pick up their phones during Government’s Sunday 3pm emergency alert test
Drivers could be fined £200 if they pick up their phones when the Government’s emergency alert test goes off.
For around 10 seconds from 3pm on Sunday, millions of smartphones and tablets across the UK will emit a loud alarm and vibrate in a trial of a system that aims to warn the public if there is a danger to life nearby. They will also display a message about what is happening.
Drivers caught holding a phone behind the wheel face six penalty points and a £200 fine, the AA warned. The group added that motorists may prefer to switch off their electronic devices before Sunday’s test as laws banning the use of handheld phones will still apply.
It comes as women’s charities raised concerns this week that victims of domestic abuse could have any ’emergency’ phone discovered during the test.
Drivers caught holding a phone behind the wheel face six penalty points and a £200 fine
The alert, which will be issued to all UK phones on Sunday, will look something like this
AA campaigns manager Lorna Lee said the test is ‘very welcome’ as the system ‘could be very useful in certain situations’.
But she added: ‘The test does bring certain risks though, which need to be managed.
‘For drivers in particular, awareness of the test is vital to avoid any panic when it sounds.
‘If you are driving when the alert sounds, you must not touch your phone to stop the alert as the normal driving laws still apply.
‘Instead, wait for a safe place to pull over – not the hard shoulder nor emergency area – acknowledge the alert and continue your journey.
‘Some drivers may prefer to switch their phone off in advance if they know they will be driving during the alert test.’
RAC spokesman Rod Dennis said: ‘We don’t envisage any panic among drivers with this test as the plans have been pretty well publicised and the phone tone will only sound for a short time.
‘However, it’s worth drivers being aware that the alert will interrupt any hands-free calls they may be making, as well as take over the car screen for anyone using their phone as a satnav or for playing music or podcasts.’
The UK’s alerts will initially be used to warn people about severe weather situations including floods and wildfires in their local area.
The system is modelled on similar schemes in the US, Canada, the Netherlands and Japan.
Emergency sirens will ring out from phones across the UK in a Government trial on April 23
The Government said on Monday that the system could later be used for other forms of emergencies such as terror attacks, nuclear threats and dangerous criminals on the loose.
Women’s charities have warned victims of domestic violence and abuse to switch off any emergency phone they may have well in advance of the test so it is not discovered by an abuser.
But the PM’s official spokesman played down concerns this week. ‘This is about helping us protect the public from emergencies such as flooding,’ he said.
‘It will give the Government and the emergency services the ability to send alerts to people’s phones where there is risk to life and people need to act.
‘We have run an extensive five-week communications campaign and successful tests in East Suffolk and Reading where we didn’t see any of those concerns raised.’
The spokesman added: ‘We’ve worked with Refuge and others to make sure people are aware of the system and, where applicable, know how to turn off the alert if that’s right for them.
‘We’ve worked with sports and event organisers, the emergency services, transport operators to identify the best time for this test.
‘But it’s important to understand this is about protecting and potentially saving lives by having a system that’s used in a number of other countries and used to good effect.
‘The US, Canada, Netherlands, Japan are all countries that have used these systems.