The Government plans to strengthen existing laws on road safety and using hand-held devices. Police will soon have more power to prosecute drivers who use a hand-held mobile phone at the wheel.
It is already illegal to text or make a phone call (other than in an emergency) using a hand-held device while driving. Next year, laws will go further to ban drivers from using their phones to take photos or videos, scroll through playlists, or play games.
This will mean anyone caught using their hand-held device while driving will face a £200 fixed penalty notice and 6 points on their licence.
Mary Williams OBE, Chief Executive of Brake – the road safety charity, said: “This news is particularly welcomed by families suffering bereavement and catastrophic injury due to drivers being distracted by phones.”
Drivers will still be able to continue using a device ‘hands-free’ while driving, such as a sat-nav, if it’s secured in a cradle.
The Highway Code will be revised 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.
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, for example, 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.
Strong support for prosecutions
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.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said: “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.”
The Department for Transport also published a study by Ipsos Mori about drivers who use mobile phones while driving.
Among other findings, the research reveals younger motorists are more likely to have used a handheld device at the wheel.
Commenting on the announcement, RAC road safety spokesman Simon Williams said: “Our research suggests that more than one-in-10 younger drivers admit to taking a photo or video while driving, while 6% say they have played a game.
“While the announcement is clearly good news, it’s absolutely vital that the new law is vigorously enforced otherwise there’s a risk that it won’t deliver the sort of behaviour change that will make our roads safer.”