Wagon driver fined for talking on mobile phone

A wagon driver has been found guilty of driving while talking on his phone after Skipton magistrates refused to accept his claim he routinely drove while resting one arm.

Christopher Bowling, 35, was followed by a traffic officer in an unmarked police BMW who had seen him on the A629 western bypass holding his phone up to his left ear, the court heard last Wednesday.

TC Mark Tiffany told the court he had turned his vehicle around, followed Bowling across the Gargrave Road roundabout and onto the A65 towards Harrogate.

He had then pulled alongside the wagon driver on the three-lane section of the road and watched him continue speaking on his phone before indicating for him to pull over.

TC Tiffany said when Bowling had seen him, he had made a sudden movement towards his dashboard before pulling into a layby.

Bowling, 35, who was driving an articulated lorry, admitted talking to his girlfriend at the time, but said that he had been using the handsfree set fitted in the cab.

Defending Bowling, Sarah Guttman said he had not been holding a phone up to his ear, but had been driving while resting one arm on an arm rest in the middle of the cab.

Bowling told the court he drove up to 15-hour shifts.

“It is a comfy way to drive,” he said. “We are doing long hauls and the armrest would not be there if it wasn’t for comfort.”

But Hilary Reece, prosecuting, suggested to Bowling that it must have been a shock to see the traffic officer pull up next to him.

She said as a professional driver, it would not look good for him to receive points on his licence and suggested that was why he was challenging what the officer had said.

But Bowling said he had denied it from the start and insisted he had been using a handsfree device.

Ms Reece said Bowling had acknowledged that his method of driving was not perfect and the officer did not have a clear view of her client as he was in a vehicle significantly lower.

Magistrates said they considered TC Tiffany’s evidence had been clear and consistent, while there were some discrepancies in the evidence of Bowling, including his belief that the police officer had come from a different direction.

They also believed it was not credible that Bowling could drive so far with one hand, particularly while negotiating a roundabout.

After finding Bowling guilty of driving while using his phone on April 30, magistrates heard he already had six points on his licence, including three for an identical offence.

Bowling, of Bankfield Road, Shipley, whom the court heard was no longer employed by the haulage firm, was fined £100 and had his licence endorsed with three penalty points.

He was also ordered to pay costs of £300 and a £15 victims surcharge.

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