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NEWS: Use of hand-held phone while driving laws updated

Police will soon be able to more easily prosecute drivers using a hand-held mobile phone at the wheel as the Government strengthens existing laws to further improve road safety.

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 ban drivers from using their phones for any non-emergency tasks, such as 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 six points on their licence.

The Government ran a consultation from 17 October 2020 to 17 January 2021. It also sought views on creating a new exemption to the offence of using a hand-held mobile phone while driving, to enable drivers to use a hand-held mobile phone to pay for goods or services that they would be receiving immediately, for example a drive-thru takeaway.

Given the substantial level of support, the Department for Transport (DfT) intends to implement the change proposed in the consultation document at the earliest opportunity so that the police can enforce the offence in a more straightforward way.

The Government's response to the consultation including next steps and a summary of responses has now been published.

  

The Government has also published a research report about the use of mobile phones while driving.

Drivers can still use devices such as satnavs and mobile phones using satellite navigation, if they are secured in a cradle.

But motorists must take responsibility for their driving and can be prosecuted if the police find them not in proper control of their vehicle.

The 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.

"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 crackdown comes after a public consultation that found 81% of respondents supported proposals to strengthen the law.

The Highway Code will also be revised to make it clear that being stationary in traffic counts as driving and handheld mobile phone use at traffic lights or in motorway jams is illegal except in very limited circumstances.

Mary Williams, the chief executive of the road safety charity Brake, said the changes, coinciding with Road Safety Week, were "very welcome".

The president of the AA, Edmund King, said: "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."

Simon Williams, the RAC road safety spokesperson, said: "As our phones have become more sophisticated, the law has not kept pace and this has allowed some drivers who have been using their handheld phones for purposes other than communicating to exploit a loophole and avoid the maximum penalty.

"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."



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