Police will soon be able to prosecute drivers using a hand-held mobile phone at the wheel more easily, with the government tightening existing laws in order to 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 However, because of a loophole, drivers have been able to escape punishment for using a hand-held phone to take a photo or play a game.
Under the new law, there will be an exemption 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.
Furthermore, drivers will still be able to continue using devices ‘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.
Says Transport Secretary Grant Shapps:
“Too many deaths and injuries occur whilst 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.”
This follows a public consultation which found 81 per cent 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.
Adds Mary Williams OBE, Chief Executive of Brake – the road safety charity:
“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.
The Department for Transport has also today 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, supporting the focus of the Government’s award-winning THINK! campaign which works to boost road safety by targeting higher-risk, younger motorists and road-users.