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Clampdown on using mobile phones while driving

Emma Lunn
Written By:
Emma Lunn

Any use of handheld mobile phones while driving will become illegal from next year – anyone caught will face a £200 fine and six penalty points.

At the moment it’s only illegal to text or make a phone call using a handheld device while driving.  But new laws are being introduced to ban drivers from using their phone to take photos or videos, scroll through playlists, or play games.

Tightened regulations mean police will be able to more easily prosecute drivers using a handheld mobile phone at the wheel. Anyone caught using their handheld device while driving will face a £200 fixed penalty notice and six points on their driver’s licence.

Drivers will still be able to use their phone hands-free while driving, such as a sat-nav, if it’s secured in a cradle. They must, however, always take responsibility for their driving and can be charged with an offence if the police find them not to be in proper control of their vehicle.

Grant Shapps, transport secretary, said: “Too many deaths and injuries occur while mobile phones are being held. By making it easier to prosecute people illegally using their phone at the wheel, we are ensuring the law is brought into the 21st century while further protecting all road users.

“While our roads remain among the safest in the world, we will continue working tirelessly to make them safer, including through our award-winning THINK! campaign, which challenges social norms among high-risk drivers.”

The move follows a public consultation that found 81% of respondents supported proposals to strengthen the law and make it easier for culprits to be prosecuted.

Following the public consultation, the government will revise The Highway Code to explain the new measures. It will also be more precise about the fact that being stationary in traffic counts as driving, making it clear that hand-held mobile phone use at traffic lights or in motorway jams is illegal except in very limited circumstances such as an emergency.

There will be an exemption to the new law for drivers making a contactless payment using their mobile phone while stationary to ensure the law keeps pace with technology. This exemption will cover places like a drive-through restaurant or a road toll, and will only apply when payment is being made with a card reader. It will not allow motorists to make general online payments while driving.

Mary Williams OBE, chief executive of road safety charity Brake, said: “Driver distraction can be deadly and using a hand-held phone at the wheel is never worth the risk. This important road safety decision by government, coinciding with Road Safety Week, is very welcomed.

“This news is particularly welcomed by families suffering bereavement and catastrophic injury due to drivers being distracted by phones. The theme for Road Safety Week is road safety heroes – we can all be road safety heroes by giving driving our full attention.”

Edmund King, AA president, said: “Picking up a mobile phone whilst driving is dangerous and we welcome this change to the law. It helps to clarify what is acceptable when using them hands-free when driving and what poses a threat.

“By making mobile phone use as socially unacceptable as drink driving, we are taking big steps to make our roads safer. For years, the AA has campaigned hard and helped educate drivers to the dangers from bad mobile phone use. To help ensure drivers get the message, we also need more cops in cars to help catch and deter those still tempted to pick up.”